SnapApp is an interactive content creation platform that enables marketers to boost results by 2-3x across all their existing marketing programs. SnapApp is MITX Interactive Award Winner in the Direct Response category.
Peanut butter and jelly. Peas and carrots. Interactive assets and qualifying leads.
That third pair may not be as well-known as the other two, but it should be—at least among B2B marketers. B2B lead generation would be far more effective if more marketers used interactive assets to uncover buyer intent.
Why? Because interactive assets stand out from the sea of static content that B2B buyers are so familiar with. These assets don’t have to be gated, and they provide your prospects with some value in exchange for their information. As a bonus, interactive prospect engagement allows for personalization—something B2B buyers value highly. It also improves marketing and sales alignment, helping marketers qualify leads that their sales team will approve of.
Creating an interactive experience for prospects will help you uncover their intent, whether you start with a new blog post, white paper, or webinar, or you repurpose existing content. Here are the benefits of using interactivity in your lead generation marketing campaigns.
1. Interactive Assets Get Better Engagement Than Traditional Lead Generation Content
Who wants to read yet another text-heavy white paper? Not many of us. Especially if we have to fill out a lead generation form to gain access to the white paper. However, that form is going to result in a flurry of sales calls and emails—calls and emails that won’t consider who we are or if we need their product or not.
Interactive assets maneuver around the resistance to B2B lead generation forms because people don’t have to fill out a form to engage with you. If the lead gate exists at all, it’s optional. So, prospects can view your content (which you paid a lot for them to be able to see). And because there is no lead gate, more B2B prospects will look at your content than would see it if you kept it locked up behind a lead gate.
So, does it work? You bet. Successful B2B content marketers are more than twice as likely to incorporate interactive features into their templates.
2. Interactive Marketing Tools Allow For More Personalization Later On In The Buyer’s Journey
You know how vital personalization is right now. B2B buyers expect it. In fact, 72 percent of them “expect vendors to personalize engagement to my needs.”
Interactive assets rely on sales enablement questions to bring the prospect along on their journey with your brand. It responds when a prospect clicks on it. It changes based on their inputs. Overall, it provides a more engaging experience than a static pdf.
Like it or not, most of us would often rather not read unless there is obvious value to be gained. Utilizing interactive assets will help get your message through.
3. Interacting With Prospects Delivers Detailed Buyer Insights To Sales
Asking leading questions is definitely beyond the capabilities of static, text-only content. And the questions we can ask result in B2B lead generation gold. Questions allow us to qualify leads, for starters. That means marketers can identify the high-quality leads and give them more attention and resources. This is a crucial goal for marketers today. Lead quality trumps lead quantity in most B2B marketing departments.
But that isn’t the only reason it’s good to ask questions. The answers to those questions let us personalize other marketing campaigns, like follow-up emails.
Even if you only ask B2B prospects one or two questions while they engage with your asset, their answers will let you deliver more tailored—and thus more useful—marketing and sales campaigns.
4. There Are Plenty Of Interactive Formats To Choose From For B2B Lead Generation
By customizing interactive asset templates with sales-qualifying questions, you can know ahead of time whether the subject matter is something your audience is interested in or not. Creating these assets has a significant benefit: It means you don’t have to worry if people will like the new content. So, look at your top 10 most popular pieces of content in the last year and ask yourself, “could any of those be made into a quiz, an assessment, a poll, or some other form of engaging content?”
For example, assessments are particularly useful as a B2B lead generation tool to use with email nurturing. All those questions people answer on assessments can be crafted into personalized content. But there are plenty of other content formats to pick from.
This interactive quiz from CoreSite, for example, lets the marketers do several things at once. For starters, the quiz is an interesting piece of content that attracts people to their site for the first time, so it worked as a demand generation tool. But it also worked as a lead generation tool. And by asking a couple of carefully-chosen questions, CoreSite’s marketers were able to qualify the leads this quiz attracted.
The questions also allowed CoreSite’s marketers (and salespeople) to learn a lot more about each prospect. Integrating the answers to these questions into tools like Pardot or SalesForce will append this data to a prospect’s file. As a result, duplicate leads or data quality don’t become a problem.
All those answers can also be used to tailor customer experiences and interactions, too. More useful and relevant assets lead to more trust and authority with the prospect. After a series of touchpoints like this, many prospects will be ready to talk to a live salesperson.
Finally, at the end of the quiz, the prospect sees an old-school lead generation form. The only difference is that it’s optional. Only people who truly want to hear from the company will complete the form, once again giving the marketers substantially higher-quality leads.
Also, notice one more twist: By filling out this form, the prospect can benchmark themselves against their peers. They’ll get a customized report. So, there’s some more personalized content for them.
Quizzes aren’t the only possible format for prospect interaction that you can use for a B2B lead generation application like this. The chart below shows what other marketers have said are most successful for the early, middle and late stages of the buyer’s journey:
Prospect engagement tools and interactive assets complement each other beautifully, and they solve a slew of problems in B2B lead generation.
Your messaging will benefit from having interactive capabilities. These assets are more intriguing to potential prospects than static text content. They allow for personalization, both while the prospect is interacting with the content of your asset, and later on when they have customized experiences based on how they answered any questions.
The questions asked also allow marketers to qualify leads and improve marketing outcomes. So, the tool generates not just more leads, but better leads. It’s an elegant solution to many of the problems B2B marketers face. And it fits in perfectly with most existing marketing automation programs.
Marketing is a very different game than it was five years ago thanks to the explosion of marketing technology that has allowed us to track everything and accurately measure impact and attribution. But with that ability to measure marketing’s impact comes an expectation to meet increasingly lofty, revenue-based goals. Ultimately, we need the traffic we garner to work harder for us, which is why so many marketers today are focused on one goal: a higher conversion rate.
Your conversion rate is the percentage of the time that an audience responds to your designated “Call-to-Action” (or conversion action) within the context of the channel they are presented with.
And this focus on conversion rate seems to make sense, right? Say 1,000 people visit your website where your conversion action is for your visitors to request a demo of your product. Even a slightly increased conversion rate could significantly impact your total revenue. Depending on your average deal size, moving your conversion rate from 3% to 4% could mean thousands of new dollars in revenue for your team.
I imagine by now we’ve sold you—but where do you start to actually move the needle on your conversion rate? A quick Google search will reveal dozens of articles with broad solutions, like “use A/B testing” and “build trust”.
Which, of course, are critical concepts to explore and infuse into your marketing. But if you’re looking for more practical solutions to start improving your conversion rate now, we’ve got you covered. Check out our tips to increase your conversion rate below.
Use Creative CTAs Everywhere
Can you imagine how many “download now” or “sign up” buttons your audience sees in a day? The answer is way too many times for yours to jump out at them.
While it’s true that positive words, affirmations, and action-oriented verbs are your best bet psychologically to illicit a click (read: conversion!) from your audience, there’s no rule saying that “download,” or “sign up” are the only two you have to choose from.
Simply adding a “yes” to your CTA can help increase your conversion rate:
But CTAs can also be a powerful opportunity to leverage your brand voice, test snappier verbiage, and build the authenticity factor with your audience. This example from Spoon University shows how you can use language in both a “yes” and “no” format that point your prospects in the right direction.
While this may seem like an obvious tip, it’s a critical place to start for many companies who are losing out on valuable conversion opportunities by unintentionally making things difficult for their prospects.
What do we mean when we say optimizing landing pages?
The name of the game is simplicity and user experience. The purpose of a landing page is to drive your visitors toward a singular goal, but many marketers today fail to un-muddy the waters for their prospects.
Focus on assessing your landing pages for these three critical areas to start your practical improvements: CTAs, offer language, and design.
Keep your CTAs above the fold: Your visitors should never have to scroll down to reach the point of your landing page where they can convert. The CTA should always be in plain view as soon as they hit the page.
Make your offer clear: Your language needs to be precise enough for your visitors to understand exactly what they can expect to get from taking the action you have presented them with.
Pay attention to your design: Using contrasting colors and visually guiding your visitor to your CTA is critical for increasing your conversion rate.
This example from Hubspot embodies these principles:
With a dynamic CTA, clear language, and simple but engaging design, it’s clear that this landing page removes any roadblocks for Hubspot’s visitors to convert, and ultimately, helps them increase conversion rate.
Create Conversion Opportunities in Your Content
Many marketers often stop looking for opportunities to increase their conversion rate and conversion opportunities after a prospect has interacted with a landing page, and accessed your content. But by layering in both qualification and conversion opportunities within your content, you’re able to drive not just more conversions, but better leads that will ultimately convert at a higher rate.
This next example shows how additional conversion and lead qualification opportunities turn what would be a simple PDF into a conversion engine.
For this piece of content, you can see that the report itself is ungated to improve the user experience (Note however, that a click through from this landing page to the report is still a conversion! We’re just adding additional opportunities in this model.)
However, the content itself includes overlayed interactive elements that both qualify your leads (in the sales qualifying question section) and add additional conversion opportunities, with both a skippable form and two CTA options at the end of the report.
Learn about how interactive assets can improve qualification and conversion rates here.
Whether you’re just starting to think about new strategies to improve your conversion rate, or are consistently looking to optimize the testing you already do, these simple tweaks to marketing activities you already have in places are sure to get you moving in the right direction.
What other simple tweaks have helped you move the needle and increase your conversion rate? Share in the comments below!
Marketing and sales teams used to have separate responsibilities. Marketing teams were responsible for generating leads, and sales teams converted those leads into customers.
But these days, the lines between marketing and sales teams’ responsibilities have blurred. Prospects no longer come to sales with limited information. They conduct significant research before reaching out, consuming dozens of marketing assets along the way.
This shift has created demand for a new working model for marketing and sales—one that requires close alignment between the two teams. To create that alignment, marketers are using a number of marketing- and sales-enablement activities to generate leads, qualify them, and move sales-qualified leads down the pipeline:
Our latest survey results show that more than 50% of marketers agree that the following marketing activities “significantly help” in making sales teams more efficient:
Generating more marketing-qualified and sales-qualified leads (77%)
Creating more content to attract and educate prospects (74%)
Lead generation via company website (72%)
Creating content for use in the sales process (54%)
Improving marketing’s CRM usage (53%)
Other popular activities listed as significantly helpful include automating email messages from marketing (50%), standardizing email templates used throughout the sales process (28%), lead scoring (22%), and implementing meeting-booking tools so prospects can schedule time with salespeople easily (22%).
Less popular activities include:
Using surveys, quizzes, or other interactive content to qualify leads further: only 16% of marketers report that this has significantly helped.
Setting service level agreements for lead volume and quality: only 12% of marketers report that this significantly helped.
Implementing website chat: only 9% of marketers report that this significantly helped.
However, some of the less popular activities may just be the result of low usage. In fact, our survey results showed that more marketers plan to start using interactive content this year than any other technology or tactic for gathering information about leads:
While 97% of marketers plan to continue using lead forms and landing pages in 2019 to gather more information about leads, many marketers also plan to start using more advanced tactics:
23% plan to start using market research surveys.
17% plan to start using data appending.
16% plan to start using progressive polling.
11% plan to start using email nurturing campaigns to get existing leads to provide more information.
So what activities, techniques, and technologies should your team use to align sales and marketing—and boost sales’ efficiency—this year? We asked 31 marketers to share their best practices for sales enablement. Here’s what we learned.
Start by Aligning Marketing and Sales
Marketing can’t help sales become more efficient if the two teams work in silos. As SparkReaction’s Jesse Frye says: “From my experience, the best way to help your sales team become more efficient is to first understand their challenges. Once you understand the challenges in selling, you can equip sales teams with marketing tools to make their jobs easier.”
If your marketing and sales teams are working in vacuums, consider these suggestions for improving cross-department collaboration and encouraging ongoing communication.
Define Processes for Marketing and Sales Collaboration
Before you help your sales team become more efficient, you must understand what sales needs from marketing. That understanding comes from a close collaboration between the two teams.
According to Weidert Group’s Nicole Mertes: “It all starts with alignment. If marketing and sales are aligned, the collaboration between the two departments typically results in many ideas, including those for sales team efficiency.”
Mertes recommends that marketing teams work with sales to create a service-level agreement (SLA): “An SLA that outlines your shared goals and the commitments of each department to reach those goals is a great place to start.”
But collaborating with sales doesn’t always have to be so formal and defined. Just setting up regular meetings can encourage communication and alignment.
Carolinas IT’s Jennifer Noto meets with her sales team once a week: “I provide updates about our ongoing campaigns, share information about our upcoming events, and provide PDF files of our marketing emails so account managers can reach out to their clients and prospects directly with a personal note.”
Regular meetings also provide marketers with an opportunity to educate the sales team. “One way our marketing team helps sales reps generate more revenue is through education,” says Michael Maynes of CIENCE. “Many marketers focus on educating markets/prospects, but our marketing team designs education programs for the sales team.”
“In our space, there is an oversaturation of information—but maybe less education,” Maynes says. “Our marketing team filters the material critical for relevance and presents it every week in a one-hour program called Thought Leadership Tuesday.”
Align on Each Team’s Role at Different Stages of the Buyer’s Journey
Another strategy for aligning marketing and sales is to determine which team is responsible for working with prospects at different stages of the buying journey.
Revenue River’s Marc Herschberger recommends connecting your entire campaign strategy to the buyer’s journey:
“We’ve been able to simplify everything the marketing team does by basing our decisions on the needs and goals of the buyers at different stages of the decision-making process. By doing this, marketing and sales have content and processes that are better aligned, reducing the friction that prospects feel as they move from marketing assets to sales conversations.”
Elika Dizechi of Campaign Creators recommends taking this one step further: “Sit down with both parties to establish a set of processes and procedures for client onboarding and employee training. Because the sales and marketing teams have to work together as a dual entity for clients, it’s important that the handoff between each team is seamless.”
Once marketing and sales are aligned, you can start to develop strategies for generating more leads, qualifying them, and passing qualified leads to sales.
Generate More Leads with Inbound Marketing
The two strategies that our respondents reported as being the most successful for marketing and sales enablement were creating content to attract and educate prospects, and lead generation via their companies’ websites.
Nearly all respondents agree that these two tactics either help or significantly help with marketing and sales enablement.
Kris Hughes says his team used lead generation tactics on the ProjectManager.com website to double their free trial signups in 2018. Additionally, “The increased volume of leads allowed the sales team to better vet potential customers and start to prioritize the potential clients which deserve—and to some extent demand—a greater level of attention and more touch points to become full customers following a trial.”
Our respondents recommend the following techniques for generating more leads with inbound marketing.
Publish Educational Content and Optimize it for Search
Best Company’s Chad Zollinger says that publishing knowledge-focused content helps his team produce more qualified leads: “Because our content is knowledge-focused, our leads come away with more industry knowledge than normal, leading to higher retention for the companies they end up buying from.”
Beyond publishing knowledge-focused content, the content team at Best Company also focuses on employing the best practices of SEO to grow content visibility: “When the content team increases organic traffic by winning a featured snippet or ranking on the first page of Google for a branded term, our lead quality goes through the roof,” Zollinger says.
The marketing team at Fundera also uses educational, search-optimized content to attract inbound leads. According to Nicolas Straut: “By targeting and ranking for less-competitive, long-tail keywords, we’ve drawn high-intent customers to our site and converted them with both quizzes and CTAs within highly-informative content.”
Use A/B Testing to Optimize Your Landing Pages
Smallpdf’s Hung Nguyen asserts that running experiments by A/B testing your landing pages is the best way to drive conversions:
“However many hypotheses you can come up with, the only way to properly test them is to run A/B tests until you’ve reached statistical significance. Once you’ve found the most optimized version of your landing page, run it, and hand the data over to your sales team to nurture your leads.”
Solicit Content Ideas and Feedback from Sales
Casey Bowden of Design Extensions recommends working with sales during the content ideation process: “Our marketing team works hand-in-hand with our sales team, creating videos, infographics and effective content that helps sell to potential customers—especially on our website, which has been a big lead magnet.”
Ryan Bromsgrove of Flawless Inbound agrees: “We’ve undergone a deep sales and marketing alignment. Our marketing content is used by sales to assist with their outreach to prospects. Likewise, our marketing department remains in constant contact with sales in order to evaluate what’s working and glean ideas for further content. The result is more content that aligns with what our clients are trying to solve—and better conversations on the sales side.”
Creating content that answers prospects’ most pressing questions and alleviates their biggest concerns is key to inbound marketing. As Sneakerlost’s José Juan Morales says: “Today’s consumers don’t like to be chased. You have to attract them with arguments that interest them and reach out only when they are ready to take the next step.”
Nurture Leads with Automated Email Sequences
85% of our respondents use automated email sequences to nurture leads. How?
“We send personalized content to our leads via workflows and e-mails,” says Romy Fuchs of BEE Inbound AG. “We try to nurture leads by being as helpful as possible and not primarily offering our services. Our goal is for leads to reach out to our sales team—not vice versa.”
Adam Rowles of Inbound Marketing Agency recommends using blog content to create nurturing emails: “Creating blog articles that speak to objections and questions that come up during the sales process has helped us improve close rates. We create email templates (2-3 paragraphs that link to blog posts) for the sales team to send to prospects when needed.”
Rowles continues: “Then, we add these emails into our marketing automation platform, and when a prospect meets a particular stage in the sales process, these emails are sent automatically, periodically, to keep prospects engaged and keep our business at top of mind.”
Qualify and Score Leads Before Sending them to Sales
Having more leads is great, but not all leads should be sent to the sales team.
As Print4Hospitality’s Richard George says: “Qualifying leads makes salespeople more efficient. It allows them to focus on worthwhile leads and waste less time on unqualified leads.”
77% of our respondents reported that generating more marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) significantly helped improve the efficiency of their sales teams.
But before you can generate more MQLs and SQLs, you first have to determine how to qualify leads. Here are some of the techniques our respondents use.
Create a Lead-Qualification Matrix
Kiwi Creative’s Kaity Huff recommends developing a lead-qualification matrix: “To make sure that marketing is generating leads that the sales team can turn into customers, both teams need to have a shared understanding of exactly what a qualified lead is. Luckily, that comes down to answering just two main questions.”
The first question to ask, according to Huff, is “What makes someone a good fit for your offering? Create an ideal customer profile that lists the key traits a person or organization must possess to be a good fit.”
The second question to ask, according to Huff, is “Which actions demonstrate that someone is sales-ready? Identify the actions a lead takes to demonstrate that they’re ready to buy.”
“Once you know the qualifications for fit and sales readiness,” Huff says, “you can create a six-category lead qualification matrix that will define exactly which leads should be passed on to sales—and which ones should continue to be nurtured by marketing.”
Define Lead Qualification Categories and Criteria
AJ Alonzo’s team at demandDrive uses “Good,” “Better,” and “Best” categories to score leads: “We operate on a ‘Good, Better, Best’ model with our accounts: accounts that could use our service (‘Good’), accounts we know could use our service (‘Better’), and accounts we’d love to convince to use our service (‘Best’).”
“We always had these distinctions,” Alonzo says, “but by better aligning marketing and sales, we’re able to easily identify which bucket an account belongs in.”
Use Technology to Score Leads Automatically
Several respondents reported using marketing automation and CRM tools to score leads automatically.
Kristin Dennewill of Denamico uses HubSpot to score leads for agency clients: “We start by having a conversation with sales and marketing teams to identify what, exactly, is a sales-qualified lead. We discuss what triggers indicate a lead has moved from an MQL to an SQL. Maybe they’ve looked at the pricing page or requested a demo.”
Lead scoring also helps Dennewill’s team disqualify specific leads: “A prospect can also take actions which decrease their score—for example, not opening a lead nurturing email.”
The right tool also helps you identify qualified leads through behavior monitoring. According to Brian Pappalardo of Pappalardo Digital: “By using a marketing platform that captures behavioral data on your leads, you don’t have to wait for a form submission to indicate that your prospect is nearing the decision-making point.”
“For instance,” Pappalardo says, “if a lead clicks a ‘Speak to a Representative’ link in your marketing email but doesn’t submit the contact form on the landing page, that’s still a pretty strong signal that you’re dealing with a warm prospect. And if you haven’t reached out in a while, it might be time for your sales team to get that prospect on the phone.”
Passing Qualified Leads Over to Sales
Our respondents also offered a number of suggestions for handing qualified leads over to the sales team:
“Provide automated alerts to salespeople when their prospects take some kind of action with marketing assets. For example, when an active prospect visits our company website or opens a marketing email, the assigned salesperson gets an immediate text alert that contains details about the visit.” (Jake Fisher, Bridges Strategies)
“We’ve implemented IP tracking that tells sales reps which companies visit our website. In that way, we can still start conversations with potential customers even if they have not converted on an offer. IP tracking expands the number of warm leads that sales reps can work with on a daily basis.” (Thorstein Nordby, Nettly)
“Our marketing team has connected all of our different lead sources to Zapier, allowing us to automatically assign leads—based on their area codes—to the correct rep, enter the lead information into our CRM system, and add the lead to specific drip campaigns.” (Joe Sloan, Advice Media)
It also helps to pass along information on how prospects have interacted with marketing assets when sending leads to sales.
According to Brianne Rush of Kuno Creative: “The typical B2B buyer is likely to make it through 60% of the decision-making process before speaking to a salesperson. In this time, prospects can take any number of actions: become a blog subscriber, download an ebook, or sign up for marketing emails about a specific product.”
Rush continues: “With the right tools to monitor these moves, sales teams will be armed with relevant information to guide the other 40% of the buyer’s journey.”
Create Content to be Used During the Sales Process
53% of our respondents reported that creating content for use in the sales process is highly effective for sales enablement.
As Jesse Frye of SparkReaction says: “Every salesperson works differently, but as long as you develop content that aligns with the overall sales process—and educate the sales team on when and how to use the content—it usually makes their jobs easier. If they have to spend hours searching for marketing tools and materials, it hurts their ability to close deals.”
Here are a few ways our respondents enable sales teams with sales-specific content:
Make Sure You Are Creating the Right Content
Creating content for sales only works if sales and marketing are aligned. Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers asserts that sales and marketing must work hand-in-hand to create content.
“It’s important to have the sales team explain to the marketing team precisely what content they’re looking for and what the content will be used for. Once the marketing department has created the content, the sales team will review it and propose a few changes. Then, the marketing team will make the changes and re-submit it to the sales team for approval.”
Use Technology to Deliver Content to Sales
Make it easier for sales to find the content you’ve created for them by adopting tools that make the content discovery process easier.
Stan Robinson, Jr. of Vengreso uses a content distribution platform to queue up relevant content
Anne Shenton of Ascend Inbound Marketing recommends the Documents feature in HubSpot Sales: “Once documents are uploaded into the tool, sales reps can quickly access them and insert them as a link in an email, from within HubSpot, or from their email client with the HubSpot extension.”
“Another benefit of using this feature,” Shenton says, “is that reps are notified when a prospect opens the document. And if the prospect forwards the document to someone else, they have to input their email to view it, which also notifies the rep. Reps can see how many times and how long the document was viewed for. They can then use this insight to tailor their follow-ups.”
Eric Pratt of Revenue River recommended Pandadoc for the same capability of “tracking exactly what prospects care about. With PandaDoc, you can see exactly what parts of the document prospects are reading, among other things.”
Build Interactive Content
Nearly half of all marketers plan to use quizzes, surveys, and other forms of interactive content in 2019 to gather more information about their leads.
According to Mike Stiriti, the marketing team at TSL Marketing is already using interactive content to provide sales teams with more information about leads:
“Our marketing team has increased our qualified lead rates and discovery calls exponentially through targeted digital advertising. They have executed survey campaigns through LinkedIn sponsored updates that lead to valuable business intelligence and follow-up conversations.”
for the sales team to share on social. “It also shows us when readers have engaged with the content so we can respond to them,” he says.
Marketing agency, Overgo Studio, is doubling down on interactive content as well. Kranz is implementing SnapApp’s Interactive pdfs, “SnapApp offers a content creation platform that lets marketers ask questions as prospects read pdfs. This allows us to capture more information about our leads using the eBooks we have already created and easily gather intelligence that can help us qualify or disqualify leads before they reach sales.”
Ross Simmonds knows a thing or two about B2B marketing.
He’s an international speaker who discusses all things marketing at events like MozCon, CTAConf, Webbdagarna, SearchLove, MNSearch and many others. He’s also been featured in publications like VentureBeat, Forbes, BET, and Social Media Examiner.
He also is known for dropping little nuggets of marketing wisdom over on Twitter:
So what’s his day job? Ross is the founder of Foundation Marketing, a content marketing agency that works with Fortune 500 companies to some of the fastest growing startups. And the results they produce are impressive.
Recently, the Foundation team implemented a year-long content marketing strategy for a B2B client that was focused on two tracks: (1) Content Creation & (2) Content Distribution with the goal of creating content to enhance the brand’s reputation and drive more traffic.
Year over year, the client saw a 93 percent increase in search traffic and a 45 percent increase in revenue from online leads.
Ross’s journey into the world of B2B marketing stemmed from an interest in startups. While working at his first full-time job, he started to notice local startups raising massive rounds of funding (but not having much experience in marketing.) Many were in the B2B space, and he was one of the only local marketers talking about B2B marketing and growth for startups.
As a result, he was brought on as the first marketing hire (as a freelancer) for a few different B2B startups and he was able to gain insight from marketing leaders who led growth teams on their way to massive B2B acquisitions.
I chatted with him about what he’s learned from working with brands in this space over the past few years to find out what trends and tactics he’s seeing work well.
Let’s talk about your approach to lead generation in the B2B realm. What’s the most common thing you see clients getting wrong, and how do you help them fix it?
Ross: The most common issue I notice when reviewing a B2B site and conducting an initial audit is content focused on the product and sales-oriented assets.
B2B marketers often forget the entire buying cycle and how content can play a role in facilitating that transition from one phase to the next. It’s not rare to see a B2B website filled with case studies, product content and assets that explain why certain features are so brilliant or new products are so great.
What’s often overlooked here is the fact that people reading this content have likely already made up their mind to work with you or are so far down the funnel that it’s between you and a competitor.
The key is to create content (both blog posts, landing pages, directories, videos, etc.) that trigger curiosity in your target audience. Think about what your audience is looking for before they know they have a problem, what content would be valuable to them before they need your solution, and what stories will help you get on their radar and amplify your brand.
All of these answers start with research and conversations. Two things that many B2B brands ignore, but the best marketers always embrace.
What’s been the biggest takeaway you’ve learned in the past year from working with B2B brands on better, more effective marketing?
Far too many organizations make the mistake of separating the two and making them feel like they need to compete rather than work together. Sales should view marketing as a partner in the entire process and marketing should be aiming to arm sales with quality leads and assets that will help nurture relationships.
You need to have two teams that are willing to work together and you need a marketing leader that wants to be kept accountable. Set lead generation goals and make them relevant by incorporating metrics that determine the quality of those leads. It’s through this type of effort that both sales and marketing can be on the same page and drive meaningful results.
How does content play a role in the work you do? Do you think that content matters in 2019…and if so, what’s the big thing marketers need to know about how things are evolving around it?
We’re called Foundation Marketing because we believe that content is the foundation of the web. Whether you’re reading words on a screen or listening to a podcast in your headphones—that’s content.
Let’s talk about specific tips you have for more effective marketing in 2019 that goes beyond content. What are your recommendations?
Reverse engineer what’s working for others
One of the strategies that I think more brands can leverage is the idea of taking a look at the success of other brands and using it to guide their own approach. For example, we all know how successful Investopedia was as a brand…it all started as a simple glossary. So why aren’t more brands creating glossaries for their industry? It’s a brilliant SEO technique and one that could help plenty of brands stand out.
It’s not always about more content & more ideas
Sometimes I think marketers (especially content marketers) focus too much on wanting to create new content. Sometimes the best approach is to actually take a closer look at what exists today (old videos, old posts, old pages) and optimize them for today’s opportunities. Conduct an audit and see what backlink opportunities are missing, leaks exist in your funnel and long tail keywords you’re attracting but overlooking in terms of your actual site content.
Embrace the channels others ignore
B2B marketers are pretty cautious when it comes to trying new things. I’ve preached about experimentation time and time again at conferences and think it’s important that B2B brands embrace that approach as well. Our team recently conducted a Reddit Marketing research study and we found that this is a channel that is completely underrated by both B2C and B2B professionals. The key is taking a chance on networks that others ignore.
Don’t just publish and walk away
Distribution is so important in today’s world. Algorithms are reducing brands’ ability to reach their followers organically and people are tuning out more and more when it comes to paid ads. Thus, it’s becoming more important for B2B marketers to think creatively around how they get their content in front of the right people, media outlets and bloggers.
Collaboration is key
The best B2B brands look for opportunities to collaborate. Collaborations give brands the ability to reach new audiences, establish new credibility (when done right) and deliver value to their own existing audience. Whether it’s through a joint research paper or a podcast interview, collaborations with other brands are a great way to unlock a win-win.
Any final words/parting wisdom on B2B marketing?
Experiment. Explore new opportunities. Try new things. Grow in new regions. Test new channels. Tweak your copy. Launch that idea. Embrace new ones. Create a culture where your team is comfortable getting uncomfortable.
In the face of increasing goals and changing preferences of B2B buyers, sales and marketing teams alike are being forced to evolve in order to meet the needs of their prospects today. And on top of those changes, they’re being asked to hit lofty revenue-based KPIs, so it’s not shocking that ways to drive faster sales cycles are a hot topic today.
But the secret to faster sales cycles, as we’ll see below, is actually making sure you’re engaging with the right prospects through a process called lead qualification.
What is Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification is the process of identifying which of your prospects are the best fit for your sales process and solution, and therefore, which leads your sales team should be focusing on the most. The process of lead qualification begins in the early stages of your prospects’ research and buying process, and continues as they move down your marketing funnel, all with the goal of gathering answers to sales qualifying questions.
Better Qualification, Shorter Sales Cycles
When you focus your energy on qualifying and disqualifying leads, your sales team is able to spend their time prioritizing following up and building relationships with the very best prospects for your company.
In fact,67 percent of sales are lost as a result of sales reps not properly qualifying their potential customers before taking them through the full sales process.
By efficiently qualifying your leads across marketing and sales generated prospects, your team can focus on nurturing the right leads, shortening sales cycles, and reducing wasted effort.
But effective qualification requires more than just activity-based lead scoring today. That’s why savvy marketers and salespeople are turning to interactive content to collect deep, qualitative information that can’t be gleaned from traditional lead scoring indicators, like visits to a pricing page.
Tools for Interactive Lead Qualification
Interactive PDFs represent a unique opportunity to transform your top of the funnel content into a lead qualification engine guaranteed to shorten your sales cycle. Layering sales qualifying questions on top of your static PDFs presents an opportunity to learn about your prospects earlier, and tailor follow-up to move them down the funnel more quickly.
This example from Montage Talent does just that with their report on AI in the talent acquisition industry. While this type of industry overview guide tends to be top-of-the-funnel content, by making the PDF interactive, they were able to ask qualifying questions that resulted in nearly 28 percent clicks to leads and over 53 percent leads to form view ratios.
Read more about the power of interactive PDFs here.
Solution finders are the secret weapon of well aligned marketing and sales teams, and can help radically shorten your sales cycle when leveraged correctly.
Sometimes called product pickers, solution finders are used to help prospects differentiate between multiple solutions your company might offer. They are often set up as short assessments that result in personalized recommendations for users based on information they provide.
This example from Blackbaud helps prospects differentiate between two of their fundraising software solutions by offering objective information about which solution more closely lines up with a prospect’s needs, based on sales qualifying questions. Suggesting prospects check out your product picker to fact check information you’ve already discussed, or incorporating their results into your conversations builds trust that is critical as you move into the negotiation and closing stages of the sales process. And the results speak for themselves:
ROI calculators take inputs from users and combine them based on a set formula to generate numerical results. This allows users to evaluate specific solutions to their pain points quickly, which can also be critical for faster and more in-depth lead qualification.
Calculators create a dialogue with your audience by providing valuable, personalized content (in the form of numerical impact) at specific stages in their buying journey. The rich data collected from calculators can then be mapped to your marketing automation for lead scoring, trigger campaigns, disqualification, and to inform further sales conversations to speed the sales cycle.
This example from Iron Mountain, a company that provides data and records management services, created this calculator to help their prospects understand the costs of not employing a record keeping service. By structuring their content this way, Iron Mountain created a powerful sales enablement tool, which helps create urgency, and shortens the sales cycle by collecting powerful qualifying information.
You’d be hard pressed to find a business today that would say they’re uninterested in improving and shortening their sales cycle, and improving lead qualification is an often overlooked opportunity to do so. By employing interactive qualification tools, like interactive PDFs, solution finders, and calculators, you can make sure that both marketing and sales are spending their time focused on the right leads.
Finding quality leads is often easier said than done. Gone are the days of making a few phone calls and sending an email blast to catch the attention of interested—and high paying—prospects. Both sales and marketing want their pipelines to be overflowing with leads at all times, and more importantly, they want the right leads that are most likely to convert into revenue-generating customers.
Recently on the blog, we’ve been talking a lot about the quality vs. quantity debate around leads. And if you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that more leads are not necessarily better: Better leads are better. That can be a tough concept to wrap your brain around, especially because marketers are often very numbers-driven. We like to see volume in our pipeline, but sometimes, we fail to look closer and examine how much of that pipeline is really worth your sales team’s time.
To add a layer of difficulty, marketing is only getting more crowded. Nearly every B2B marketer is competing for the attention of the same prospects. And prospects are feeling the pressure too. B2B buyers today have seemingly endless choices at their fingertips, and they also get overwhelmed by the number of marketers vying for their attention.
The Power of Personalization
So, how can your brand break through the noise and bring in those quality leads that sales wants? It’s simple: By focusing on personalization throughout the buyer journey. In fact, research shows that over 90 percent of buyers are more likely to make a purchase from an organization that provides personalized offerings and recommendations. Putting curated content in front of leads at every stage of the funnel allows you to learn more about their unique challenges, needs, and goals, and helps you understand where exactly they are in their journey.
For marketers, that means two things. On the one hand, personalization can dramatically improve your pipeline and conversion rates when you invest in the right prospects. In fact, one study found that nearly 80 percent of companies that utilize personalization exceed their revenue goals. But, it also means that a one-size-fits-all content strategy won’t cut it. Your prospects want that unique experience when they interact with your content, otherwise they’re more likely to turn away from your offering and take their business somewhere else.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. The term “personalization” means creating more assets, for each persona, at every stage of the funnel, right? Not so fast—it’s actually just the opposite, and it’s made possible by adding interactive, qualifying questions to your content.
To start, dust off your archives of static (and perhaps outdated) PDFs, ebooks, case studies, and similar assets. Use that information to create an assessment or a short quiz that allows your readers to test their knowledge of a certain subject area. Drop in lead-qualifying questions to gather information, uncover buyer intent and determine where that prospect is in the funnel. Once you have that information, you can decide which leads are worth sending to sales, and which ones just wanted to download your white paper for the compelling stats.
Ready to find out how you can use content to provide a personalized experience for prospects at every stage of the sales funnel? Let’s get started.
According to 2019 data from HubSpot, more than 40 percent of salespeople feel that prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process. So to reach those early stage prospects that are just testing the waters, you should be using content to support your demand generation efforts. By driving brand awareness and capturing the attention of potential customers, marketers can find more of the top of the funnel prospects they need, and qualify them faster.
A readiness assessment that focuses on a specific topic is the perfect way to put your brand in front of potential buyers and help drive faster lead nurturing. The assessment will reveal to the customer their own level of need in a certain area, and provide a personalized output that helps them decide whether or not your solution is right for them. An assessment allows marketers to learn more about potential buyers, while customers learn about your company’s offerings.
Middle of the Funnel
Prospects spend a lot of time hanging around the middle of the funnel. They understand how a product or service can solve their challenges, maybe they’ve had a discovery call with sales, and they seem convinced to move forward. But for some reason, they’re still on the fence.
Reaching those leads that are lingering in the middle of the funnel is all about nurturing, and a big piece of that is customer experience. Offering a personalized CX shows your prospects that your organization takes the time to understand and address their needs. So send them case studies that help them see how similar companies have excelled since adopting your product. Or maybe invite them to your next live webinar. CX often gets overlooked by marketers, but it’s really important in the buying journey. Research shows that customers are 5.2 times more likely to purchase from companies with great customer service.
Bottom of the Funnel
When that prospect you’ve been nurturing for the past six months finally becomes a valued SQL, you might think your job as a marketer is done. But even though that prospect is now in the hands of your sales team, there’s still more you can do to help get that prospect over the finish line. Remember: Almost 80 percent of MQLs never convert into sales, and it’s usually because the prospect isn’t properly nurtured.
The bottom of the funnel is where interactive content really shines and proves its value. Every interactive quiz your prospect took, every white paper they downloaded, and every survey they completed holds valuable insights for your sales team. When they know about the prospect’s organizational challenges, business goals, budget, subject matter knowledge, existing technology stacks, and so on, they can personalize every touch point and use the right tactics to push them through the funnel and onto their roster of active customers.
Finding high quality leads doesn’t have to be hard, but it does require a bit of work on your end to provide a personalized experience that makes prospects want to complete the sales cycle. Using interactive content allows you to do just that, by creating more engaging experiences that are customized to your target audience. Not only do your prospects appreciate it, but so does your sales team. And with the right tools, it’s easy to start seeing your pipeline fill up with quality leads that are eager to become customers. Learn how you can turn your content into interactive experiences that help drive demand generation, qualify leads and close more deals.
More is not always better. That’s a new idea for marketers. We tend to get caught up focusing on more: More sales, more traffic, more leads. But more is not actually better. Better is better.
Here’s why: Doing more and more marketing work is not better. It can get pretty exhausting. But doing more effective (and thus better) marketing tasks? That is better. And having more leads is also not necessarily better, but having better leads? That’s definitely better.
That’s the key message of a webinar we did about qualified leads recently, and it speaks to a lot of what’s going on in marketing right now. Just doing more of everything does not assure success especially if the “more” comes with more work and more overhead.
Leads are great, but each one comes with a certain amount of work that misalignment will only complicate. Sales departments around the world have been shouldering that work and overhead for years, wading through thousands of leads to figure out which ones are worth their time. Working to align the goals of your marketing and sales departments will simplify the process and holistically improve the quality of leads.
“…prospects that have indicated a serious interest in purchasing your products or services. An SQL has been researched and evaluated by both the marketing and sales teams and determined that the individual has serious potential to convert into a paying customer. They are bottom-funnel leads.”
This is a little different than a marketing qualified lead, or “MQL.” These are leads that have shown a direct interest in your product/service through a specific marketing channel.
So MQLs are good, however, SQLs are better. Sales qualified leads are worth having a real human salesperson spend time on them. Moreover, because business is so competitive, and because marketers have gotten pretty good at generating lots of leads, qualifying leads is becoming more and more critical.
Many marketers already know they need better leads. That’s why research studies have started documenting how lead quality is more of a priority than lead quantity.
Don’t prioritize quality over quantity just because we say so. Or just because your peers are doing it. There are plenty of other reasons, and we are going to explore four of them.
4 Benefits of Prioritizing Lead Quality Over Lead Quantity
1. You’ll Bring More of the Right Prospects Into the Sales Pipeline Faster
When you can pre-qualify leads, and thus quickly net out the most valuable leads, it makes the whole sales process go faster. The result is more revenue (and alignment) for your company.
That’s a good start, but a shorter sales cycle has all sorts of other benefits, too. It makes testing easier, for one thing. It also tends to boost everybody’s bonus, which makes for a more motivated team.
Getting leads into your company’s pipeline faster also means you won’t lose sales to your competitors. When a “hot” lead comes in and gets pre-qualified fast (or even automatically), it means your sales team can jump in and begin to build the relationship and close the sale, while your competitor has only just started sending their drip email campaign to that lead.
2. Your Nurturing Efforts Can Be Focused on the Right Leads
Let’s face it: Marketers have more to do than there are hours in the day. So wherever we can focus our efforts on the highest-return tasks, we should.
This is audience selection 101 for those of you who advertise. You aren’t buying ads for general audiences anymore, right? You’re using retargeting and lookalike audiences to show ads to the people most likely to buy.
Shouldn’t your nurturing efforts follow the same logic? Why waste time on low-value prospects when we barely have enough time to handle the high-value ones?
3. You’ll Be Able to Provide Your Sales Team With the Leads They Need to Convert
This is an essential component of lead generation: To send sales a list of people that will convert into revenue. That way, sales can make their numbers, and you can make your numbers, and everybody gets to keep their job and maybe even get a bonus or a raise.
Meeting specific numbers is a powerful motivator. Also, many marketers have it: Our research has shown that 40 percent of marketers’ bonuses are tied to company or department goals.
4. You’ll Conserve Budget by Not Chasing After People Who Were Never Really Interested
When somebody downloads gated content, can we really say it proves they want to buy our products? Perhaps they’re a college kid writing a paper. Maybe they’re a blogger who is writing for a competitor. It could even be a person who is exploring possible solutions but won’t have the budget to do anything for six months or more – if ever.
We don’t know. So save your budget and your time and don’t chase people who aren’t pre-qualified. Focus on the better leads.
The Tools You’ll Need to Pre-Qualify Leads
Hopefully, you see now that more is not better. Better is better. And hopefully, you want to pre-qualify your leads.
The question is: How? Will this be expensive? Time-consuming? Is pre-qualifying your leads going to be such a headache that you might as well nurture every lead that comes in and not try to skim off the highest-value leads up front?
No. Pre-qualifying leads can be simple. You won’t have to blow up your marketing funnel to do it, either. You don’t have to invest a mint of money or prepare for six months of work before you see any results. You just have to ask a few questions.
You ask these questions early on in lead generation, but not too early. We’ve found the best method is to remove the traditional lead form “gates” in front of high-value content (like white papers, on-demand webinars, and research) and replace them with optional sales-qualifying questions about a quarter to a third of the way through the piece of content.
By removing the gate, the prospect doesn’t have any barrier to accessing the content. And once they’ve started consuming it, their interest will be piqued (if the content is good) and they’ll be more invested in finishing the content. So if we drop in an optional sales-qualifying question a few pages in, they’re likely to answer it. They can still skip it, but most people don’t.
It’s not the only question we’ll ask to qualify someone (see this blog post for more suggested questions), but it’s best to start with easy questions that won’t distract people too much.
A few screens later, there is a semi-traditional lead gen form. It’s traditional in that it’s got all the usual elements of a lead gen form. It’s untraditional because it’s not required.
Just removing the required gates/lead gen forms from your high-value content will go a long way towards improving lead quality and having more productive sales calls. If a lead gen form isn’t needed, all those people who don’t want to hear from you will never get into your lead generation database in the first place.
Overnight, you’ll only be bringing people in who actually want to talk to you about your products.
If you can focus on those “hand-raisers,” and then ask them a couple of sales-qualifying questions (maybe in the first few emails of a lead nurturing campaign), voilà: You’ve just radically improved the quality of your new leads.
But what about the rest of your database? All the old leads you brought in before? Don’t you want to re-assess how you’ll nurture them going forward?
Sure you do. That’s what database activation programs can do. So you can take all those thousands, or tens of thousands of names, profiles, and behavior records and distill them down into a list of the people that matter. The people who are most likely to turn into real revenue.
How to Optimize Your Lead Improvement Projects
Do you want to be extra sure your new sales qualification program works? Here are three things that will boost your chances:
First, never launch any lead quality improvement project without the input of sales – at the beginning, middle, and end of your project. Sales people are the master source of knowledge about who is and who is not qualified to buy. So don’t guess what questions you should be asking of prospects to qualify them: Get those questions from sales.
Second, get some data behind your decisions. For instance, do you know when people tend to disengage from your on-demand webinars? Slip your sales-qualifying questions in before that point. The lead gen form can arguably go in a bit after most people drop out. This is because you don’t want to bring everybody who watches that webinar into your nurturing system. You only want the people who are extra interested.
That may mean that only be the top 25 percent most engaged people who watch the video are high enough quality to immediately advance to sales. Maybe you don’t want to cut your lead generation down that much, but that 25 percent makes a strong case for not trying to turn everyone who sees your content into a lead.
And finally, test where your optional sales-qualifying questions go, and where your lead forms work best. A couple of tests could substantially increase how many sales qualified leads you can generate.
The fact that we’re talking about lead quality and SQLs at all is a testament to how much lead generation has improved in the last few years.
Many marketers have gotten the quantity part of lead generation down – we know how to get plenty of leads. Now, we’re fine-tuning our work, coordinating with sales, and becoming more sophisticated about which prospects we’ll nurture. So cheers to you, marketers. You’ve gotten better, too.
Over the last few years, the phrase, “sales and marketing alignment” has become a major buzzword. But aside from all of the flashy stats touting the success of closely aligned sales and marketing departments, there isn’t a ton of advice out there on how to actually align sales and marketing at your company.
That’s why today, we’re taking a look at the full picture of marketing and sales alignment by exploring the what, why, and most importantly, the how of building an aligned marketing and sales department.
What is Sales and Marketing Alignment?
First things first, let’s get clear on what we’re talking about when we say sales and marketing alignment. Simply put, sales and marketing alignment is the process of creating a shared vision of the problem your company solves for your customers, and a shared goal of driving revenue.
This shared understanding is then employed by marketing to create content, campaigns, and lead nurturing programs that support the sales team in identifying the best leads to follow up with. It also helps your sales team get your best prospects over the finish line, faster.
Why Align Sales and Marketing?
The why of aligning sales and marketing teams is a no brainer today, with 91 percent of buyers preferring not to engage with sales until the middle or end of their buying journey. As a result, marketing content and campaigns have to do the work that sales reps used to do in the middle of the nurture process.
In fact, misalignment between sales and marketing costs B2B companies 10 percent of revenue or more per year. Companies with good “smarketing” (sales and marketing alignment) practices in place generated 208 percent more revenue from marketing efforts. And when sales and marketing teams work together, companies see 36 percent higher customer retention and 38 percent higher sales win rates.
While the what and why of sales and marketing alignment are hard to ignore, the how is often where companies end up getting stuck. Like most things in life, aligning sales and marketing is much easier said than done, but success doesn’t require a massive budget or an organizational overhaul. You can start seeing the benefits of aligning your marketing and sales teams by employing some of these simple ideas.
Foster Inter-team Connections
Start by creating more opportunities for your marketing and sales teams to build a relationship across both departments. Strengthening the connection that individual team members feel will allow information to flow more freely between departments and encourage joint creative problem solving.
This kind of connection can be difficult to force, which is why it’s important to create opportunities for it to occur organically within your company culture. So try creating a peer mentor or partnership program to pair up marketing and sales team members and encourage new personal relationships between teams.
The physical set up of your office is also important to consider here. Experts recommend seating marketing and sales teams near each other, and employing “team tables” of four to six people to encourage maximum team cohesion and group problem solving.
Build New Processes
Building sales and marketing alignment ultimately requires a constant flow of information between marketing and sales, but that kind of seamless communication requires structure, especially when you’re working to implement changes in how your teams communicate. Not to mention, trust is absolutely critical here.
Joint editorial and content development meetings can help your marketing team draft content that your sales team wants and can actually use, based on feedback they are hearing from prospects.
Setting up recurring time for sales and marketing to connect on what is working on each side can also help further align your teams behind their shared ultimate goal: building revenue. Carve out time for teams to review successful sales calls and accounts together, and review messaging that is resonating with prospects. Marketing can also share top content performance, and keep sales in the loop on upcoming campaigns and tactics.
Use the Right Technology
Ultimately, closely knit marketing and sales teams rely on data flow between teams to inform a more targeted, and tightly aligned strategy in both departments. But to see the kind of success described in flashy statistics requires a much more sophisticated flow of information than word of mouth can offer.
Above all else, successful sales and marketing alignment relies on marketing’s ability to send qualified leads to sales. Today, that means employing marketing technology to improve lead quality. By jointly identifying terms like MQL, SQL, and lead scoring models between marketing and sales, both teams can ensure they are working to identify useful information about prospects. Most teams will require marketing automation technology to build sophisticated lead scoring models that encompass these jointly created definitions [more on this here].
It’s also important not to overlook qualitative information in the flow of data about your prospects between marketing and sales. Tools like interactive content can help you ask questions of your prospects that help decipher buying interest from buying intent, improving the likelihood that sales is following up with the right leads.
Whether you are working to hone the processes of sales and marketing teams that are already aligned, or bringing together two teams who rarely communicate, these ideas can help marketing and sales better understand their individual needs, and create a process for working together seamlessly moving forward.
Read more on how content can support your demand generation and sales and marketing alignment efforts in our guide below.
If you tried to navigate Chicago with a map of Seattle, you’d get lost.
In the same way, if you tried to build a B2B demand generation strategy based on faulty assumptions–or outright myths–you’d probably fail, too. At the very least, you wouldn’t get anywhere near the results you could have gotten if you weren’t hindered by misinformation.
Demand generation marketers, in particular, have a patchwork of myths to work through. And it’s an expensive, time-consuming process to figure out that the assumptions you’ve been working under aren’t true.
This can be especially frustrating if you’ve got limited time and you need maximum results. The more pitfalls you can avoid as you plan a B2B demand strategy, the better.
So here’s your shortcut around the most prevalent demand generation myths. It should help to get you where you want to be much faster. Many of the myths and misconceptions mentioned below are just based on old ways of doing things. It’s 2019 now, so we need to update our thinking, just like we update our tools.
Myth #1: Demand Generation and Lead Generation Are Basically the Same Thing
Have you ever used the terms “demand generation” and “lead generation” interchangeably? You can be honest–we won’t tell.
You certainly aren’t alone if you have. Even Google will return pages about lead generation for certain demand generation keywords.
While it’s really common to confuse them, demand generation is more than lead generation. As explained in one of our of recent blog posts, 5 Skills Every Demand Generation Marketer Should Master, “Demand generation is the umbrella under which all other customer acquisition and early funnel efforts find their footing.”
Demand generation generates interest in your products or services. Lead generation aims to get contact information from people who have presumably (but not necessarily) expressed an interest in your product. Demand generation generates that interest. That interest may turn into leads, but the interest can also come from existing customers.
Content for demand generation tends to have the primary KPI of brand awareness. Content for lead generation tends to be measured by, well, leads.
This may be why we see these two measurements typically competing neck and neck as one of the primary goals for content marketing.
Because its goal is more brand awareness, demand generation content will do better if it is not “gated” (doesn’t require someone to give their contact information in exchange for access to the content).
Myth #2: Demand Generation Doesn’t Need to Be Targeted
If demand generation is for brand awareness, we don’t have to be targeting our demand generation content for specific audiences, right? This is branding–we just want to get the word out to as many people as possible.
Not so fast. You do want to get the word out, but you’re only going to see results later on if you target the right people. You aren’t going to find a lot of CRM software buyers at a kids’ astronomy club.
Remember, too, how much value B2B buyers put in personalized content these days. In fact, 72 percent of them say, “I expect vendors to personalize engagement to my needs.”
These buyers expect a personalized experience, which means they expect to have content designed for them. In fact, if they are saying, “I expect vendors to personalize engagement to my needs,” it sounds like they expect us to personalize the entire buyer’s journey to their needs.
Myth #3: You Can Control the Buyer’s Journey
Most marketers do know that most of the modern buyer’s journey now happens before anyone talks to the sales team. As we discuss in Demand Generation: An A-Z Guide for B2B Marketers (with Strategies & Examples), “Both Forrester and Gartner predict that by 2020, 80 percent of the buying process will occur without any human contact. Consumers are now in the driver’s seat in their buyer journey.”
And yet, we’re still structuring our sales funnels like we can control what these buyers do. There’s this hidden assumption in how many B2B marketers talk that suggests, “sure, these buyers have gone out and done their research, but now that they’re talking to us–to me–we can guide them through their buying decision from here.”
It just isn’t so. Even after a potential buyer has spoken to sales, they can still go do absolutely whatever they want online. They can bounce around through your content with no discernible logic. They can go into forums and find customers who might not have had a perfect experience with your company. They can go check out Glassdoor, and read a review of how your company “really” works from that one disgruntled employee you let go five years ago.
Buyers are completely free to do all of that. Or, they may simply get distracted from the project they needed your product for, and not respond to any sales contacts for two years.
And you can’t control one bit of it.
The only thing you can control is how you handle the situation. You can set up your content and your CRM so that whatever stage of the funnel your prospects are in, or however they want to behave, you can meet them where they are.
It sounds almost philosophical. But grasshopper, you cannot control “your” B2B buyers.
Myth #4: Static Approaches Drive Engagement
This point plays off the last one. We can’t control what our prospects do before they contact us, or even after. We do not control the research and buying process.
In other words, the buying process, or sales funnel, or buyer’s journey (or whatever you want to call it), is not static.
But the content we use to help people through the buyer’s journey shouldn’t be entirely static, either.
Here’s the problem: As you know, there’s a vast sea of content available to B2B buyers. They are practically drowning in content.
Particularly text-based content. And text-based content is getting less and less engagement. Even static PDFs aren’t getting as much engagement as they used to.
In fact, your audience may not even be reading most of your text-based content. Most readers scan. And the longer a document is, the more they scan.
This is why marketers are so interested in video, podcasts, events, and other content formats. One of the most interesting stats we’ve seen recently is that “64 percent of B2B buyers say they prefer podcasts at the top of the funnel, while 48 percent say webinars are valuable to them in the mid-stage of their buying journey.”
But content that responds and changes based on a user’s input is the type of content that’s more likely to catch and hold people’s attention.
We don’t mean just digital interactive content, either. Events, for instance, are excellent for demand gen.
Myth #5: Demand Generation Is Solely for Attracting New Customers
Because demand generation is about awareness–awareness of your products–it tends to be associated with the beginning of the sales cycle. That’s where we get people to learn about us for the first time, right?
Yes, but that’s not its only application. Demand generation can and should be happening throughout the sales funnel, all the way to customer retention.
Examples of mid- to late-funnel content that can be used for demand generation would include webinars, events, and database activation campaigns.
Myth #6: “The Buyer”
When people talk about demand gen, they almost universally talk about “the buyer.” This is good in one way: They are at least talking about the person who will be interacting with your content and working through your sales funnel.
But you are rarely dealing with just one buyer.
B2B businesses don’t generally send one person out to make a purchase. Even a coffee run gets input from multiple people. And according to research, many B2B purchases are made based on the input of six to ten (or even more) buyers or influencers within a company. The larger the organization, the larger the buying committee is likely to be.
So try to shift how you talk about “the buyer.” Your demand generation strategy may work better if you can envision the real team of people who are assessing your services.
Myth #7: Any Digital Marketer Can Fill in As a Demand Generation Marketer
Maybe…if you’re in a pinch. But not if you really want to rock a demand generation program. True demand generation marketers have a specific set of skills, including:
The ability to think like a scientist
The ability to assess (and learn) new marketing technology/tools
The ability to use marketing data to find new opportunities
See how this might not be the job for someone weak in analytics skills? That’s no diss to right-brained, more creative thinkers, but a demand generation marketer is going to be doing a lot of heavy number-crunching. They need to be facile with data analysis and martech. Some marketers could be very happy with these sorts of responsibilities. Other marketers, not so much.
There’s one important thing to mention about B2B demand generation myths before we go: One person’s myth can sometimes be another person’s truth.
As you know all too well, what works for one company may not work for another. What works for one project may not work for another. So it’s possible you could find some truth to a few of these “myths,” and you may find that a few “sure thing” demand generation strategies fall flat.
This is what makes marketing interesting. Things don’t always work, and sometimes, stuff you were sure wouldn’t work…does. It can be pretty humbling.
So that’s the real “big idea” takeaway here: Test assumptions. Some things may end up being myths, other things may end up being true. Still, wherever possible, try to learn from other marketers’ mistakes. It can save you a lot of time and money.
While you’re at it, learn how your content can boost demand generation and qualify leads better, and faster. Here are some examples of brands that are seeing a huge ROI on their content and driving thousands of leads each month.
Marketers and the general public have one thing in common: we love a good comeback. And this time of year, we’re all trying to shake our bad habits, and magically reemerge as the very best version of ourselves in January.
While the shiny resolutions fill us with hope of a more productive and joyful year to come, we often dream too big, or set a goal that we don’t have a plan in place to help us accomplish.
In fact, 80 percent of us will abandon our resolutions by February, which can feel like a failure to meet your goal. And it also means we’re throwing away a whole month of hard work and progress.
That’s why this year, we’re avoiding all of that “New Year, New Me” noise, and thinking practically about how to become better marketers…for the whole year. The resolutions below are achievable, and guaranteed to take your marketing game to the next level. Cheers to sustainable growth in 2019, marketers!
Experiment With a New Content Type
In today’s digital environment, it’s no secret that quality content is the driver behind successful marketing programs. But it’s easy to fall into a rut: we find a content type that performs well and resonates with our audience, and we immediately try to replicate our win—over, and over, and over again.
But getting out of that rut could be as simple as rethinking a structure that has worked in the past. One of the easiest ways to accomplish that is by shaking up the types of content you use!
Do you create an annual report every year, or is there a hefty piece of anchor content on your list? If so, experiment with the format this year to promote your great user experience, like this parallax scrolling version of Vodafone’s annual report.
And even if a piece of anchor content isn’t in the plan for your team this year, you can still experiment with different types of content by repurposing what you already have. Can you rework a blog post into an infographic, or embed a short video with a member of your team introducing the topic?
Interactive content is also an easy way to make your existing content more engaging. That’s exactly what Plex did by taking a static PDF and reworking the format to be more valuable for them AND their prospects:
Learn more about how to repurpose your existing content here.
Commit to Treating Your Prospects Like People
Today, it’s easy to get lost in MQLs, conversion rates, and engagement metrics, and forget that our job as marketers is to forge real connections with people by telling our stories and connecting to theirs.
And today, it’s more important than ever to prioritize this way of thinking about your marketing. When 91 percent of buyers prefer not to talk to sales until the middle or late stages of their buying journey, your content and early stage marketing has to work overtime to replace the human connection previously built by outreach from your sales team.
Many marketers are meeting this new need with expansive conversational marketing programs, but you don’t need to upend your entire strategy to start shifting your content to be more human. This year, one of the easiest ways to start treating your prospects like people is by turning the one-way flow of information in traditional content into a conversation. Adding simple interactivity to static content brings your buyers into the conversation—and the information they provide can then be used to inform further nurture strategies and follow up content. All of this creates a dynamic buyer journey that feels much more personalized.
Learn more about how you can open up a dialogue with your prospects here.
Plan for How You’ll Learn
Instead of resolving to be perfect this year, make your goal to keep learning. The best way to do that is by making a concrete plan to continually immerse yourself in new ideas and material. The best marketers are doing a little bit every day or every week to learn what is happening in their industry.
Plan for how you’ll keep your finger on the pulse by committing to listening to a marketing podcast every week, or setting up a Google Alert for an area you want to learn more about so you get notified when new content is published around the web.
Check out the top marketing podcasts you should be listening to here, and learn how to set up a Google Alert for things you’re interested in exploring here.
By using technology to ensure that innovative ideas are always coming your way, you’re halfway to meeting this goal. Make sure you actually read the information by attaching your learning to an established part of your routine. Maybe you’ll commit to listening to a marketing podcast over your morning coffee, or watching a recorded webinar during your standing lunch date with a coworker. However you decide to integrate your learning goals, make sure they stick.
Resolutions can be a great way to up your marketing game this year, as long as you set achievable goals. Whether you decide to experiment with new content types, develop conversational programs, or just focus on your own learning, you can get extra help keeping yourself on track with our Reason for the Season campaign planning guide.