Lead generation 101: conquer fears of cold calling

The dreaded lead generation cold call. A recent study revealed that 48 per cent of B2B sales reps fear making them.  Even though sales forces are supposedly made up of outgoing extroverts who are happiest when approaching new prospects, the truth is, we’re all human. And none of us like the awkwardness that can result when a cold call goes sideways. Luckily, there are ways to prevent this from happening, which will also boost confidence among your sales people, and reduce the fear of picking up the phone. Lead generation 101 requires that you conquer fears of cold calling.

Don’t worry about sounding like a sales person

It’s what you do and it’s an honourable profession. Remember this truth about selling: you’re in business to improve someone’s life or their business. You’re a talented problem solver and by providing your product or service you are actively improving business processes or performance for your customers. You’re adding value to your prospect’s business, and in your first conversation you need to demonstrate this upfront with an example of how you can do this. For example, instead of calling a prospect and saying, “Hi, would you be interested in hearing about how my company can help your company?” start with something like this: “Hi, my company just released a research paper outlining three key ways to immediately improve profitability in your industry. I’d be happy to share it with you in an email.” Knowing that you’re providing valuable information to your prospects can go a long way towards removing the fear and anxiety you might have around B2B sales cold calling.

Practice makes perfect if you want sales leads

That takes care of the stigma some people feel at being in the sales business. But there is another fear, the fear of rejection, that keeps many people from initiating contact. Fear causes the blood to flow away from your brain’s frontal lobe so that the more reptilian part of your brain, the amygdala, takes over. The amygdala helps you fight or flee, not the kind of reactions you need to think and respond quickly, and definitely not the ideal state to be in when cold calling prospects. The way to alleviate this fear is to practice making calls for potential sales leads. Try role playing with coworkers, (who are likely experiencing the same pangs of fear), and you will not only get better at it, but you will feel more confident so that the fight or flight reaction goes away. To reduce your fear even further, try offering something to your prospect rather than asking something from them. Much less stressful and a better way to cultivate a relationship you want to last.

Cold calling is essential to lead generation

Cold calling is an essential part of B2B sales and to be successful you need to conquer your fears and get better at it. To overcome the fear of cold calling, see above. But if you’d rather leave the B2B lead generation and appointment setting to us, we’re happy to help out. Contact us today!

B2B sales lead generation gets a boost from chatbots

Filling out an online form is about as exciting as watching paint dry, yet they’re a standard B2B sales lead generation tactic for many B2B businesses. In essence their success depends on the willingness of people to spend time filling in blanks in order to receive something they perceive as valuable, whether that’s an article, a white paper, or an online tutorial.

A more modern and effective inbound marketing alternative is a chatbot. Chatbots boost B2B sales lead generation and they are a quick and easy way to start a conversation with very little effort required from your target.

Bots have been proliferating on websites for not only customer support, but also for sales lead generation.  They are easy to use, and can be entertaining too. Having somebody waiting for you to answer is surprisingly compelling. Without even knowing why, users find themselves slipping down the conversion funnel, quickly getting the information they need without having to look for it. Instead, they are treated to the much more fun experience of a simple interactive conversation.

Most of us have had a chatbot experience before, but if you haven’t, here’s how it works for B2B sales lead generation.

You head to a website and a chatbot pops up on screen, introducing their virtual self. They should also ask you for your name, so they can continue the conversation in a more personal way. To avoid any confusion, at some point early in the exchange they should clarify that they are not a human, but are in fact a bot.

Using a series of AI-powered questions they get to the heart of the matter, and find out what it is you are looking for. They should be able to get it for you in a nanosecond, after asking for a few more details, like your email address so they can follow up. In some cases they might pass the person along to a real, live human to assist.

This interaction should be as pain-free as possible, so a good script is a must. If you need help writing natural-sounding language, check out any of the numerous tutorials that exist. A few helpful tips include:

  • Keep the messages short
  • Avoid slipping into a monologue
  • The bot shouldn’t post more than three messages in a row before waiting for an answer
  • Leverage GIFs, emojis and videos to up the fun factor

If a customer leaves a conversation, the bot can leverage the information it gathered the last time and use it to personalize the next interaction and continue where they left off.

Don’t let hot sales leads cool down

Having a bot is a great investment for any B2B business with a website, but the follow-up is even more critical. A study showed that the faster the response time, the better the odds of contacting the sales lead. In fact, it found that the odds of making contact with a new lead are extremely high within five minutes but drop off dramatically as the minutes tick by. Specifically a sales rep is 100x less likely to make contact if the first call is made 30 minutes after submission. The goal is to respond immediately and persistently to sales leads.

According to the Harvard Business Review, an audit of companies demonstrated the extremely short life of online leads and found that about half of all online leads were followed up only after 24 hours, or never followed up at all! What may well have been a hot lead may turn into a frosty reception for the salesperson making the call a whole day after the lead, if not later. When you’re paying mightily for each lead, that’s a big, fat waste.

So ensure your sales team reacts to a bot-generated sales lead with just as much speed and enthusiasm as your bot did in the first place. Or, consider your bot all for naught!

Find out how 360 Leads can help your business with a B2B sales lead generation campaign, whether that’s with a chat bot or not. Contact us today!

Why events are powerful for B2B lead generation

Who doesn’t love getting invited to an event? If that event is tied to one’s career, with a timely topic and interesting speakers, there’s an added incentive to attend. Events are powerful for B2B lead generation. For businesses, hosting events is a great way to increase brand awareness, reach out to potential clients and generate qualified B2B sales leads, both inbound and outbound. There’s no better way to present your brand and establish face-to-face relationships with potential buyers – at a time and place of your own choosing.

In-person events have been rated the most effective B2B tactic by the Content Marketing Institute for six years running, with 81% of marketers using them. And that should come as no surprise, since a well-organized event will inspire conversation and discussion – exactly the kind of things that build relationships.

Plan your own B2B lead generation event

Creating an opportunity for personal contact has never been as important as it is today. In the digital world we now live in, people crave interactions that are up-close-and-personal. That said, B2B lead generation events can take many different shapes and formats. It could be a small breakfast for 10 key industry leaders or a more casual after-work gathering for 50 or more people. These customized, bespoke events can be highly targeted, and just as highly targeted content works better than broad, catchall copy, smaller, ‘in-person’ events can bring greater results and potential sales leads for the bottom line.

Capitalize on someone else’s event

A tradeshow can offer the perfect opportunity to make a big impact on as many decision makers as possible in a limited time frame. From a sales lead generation standpoint, remember to put any new technology or products with a wow factor in the spotlight to attract attention and help you stand out in a crowd.

Remember that tradeshows offer an opportunity to stage an event within an event. You have a captive audience at a show or conference that you can invite to your own event, which can complement the overall tradeshow by showcasing the specifics of your products or services for a select audience.

Conferences also offer opportunities to sit on panels or be a speaker. Always accept these; they bring brand awareness and exposure to the right audience.

Pointers for organizing an event for B2B lead generation:

  1. Make sure events are convivial, entertaining and relaxing and ensure your invitation sets that expectation so prospective customers will be more inclined to attend.
  2. Events should be held in convenient locations and offer refreshments or a meal, i.e. breakfast sandwiches for morning meetings.
  3. Personalize your invitations and treat every invitee like a VIP.
  4. Events should have a main drawing card: a speaker who’s an in-demand major player in your industry, or a current topic that is of great importance to you and your peers. This could be new government regulations that will have an outsize impact, or a major trend that’s just starting to appear in your line of business.
  5. Events should allow for time to mingle over drinks or coffee, to create an atmosphere conducive to connecting with others in an easy-going, casual way.
  6. Make sure your event organizers are organized, goal-oriented people who have the same objectives in mind as you do.
  7. If you have speakers from your company participating, choose good storytellers with a deep knowledge of your company and business, and a knack for leaving an impression with an audience.
  8. Remember to keep it as short and relevant as possible. Avoid long speeches or too many speakers, and no hard sells. Always keep your audience in mind.
  9. For networking, send out a team of your best people. Set them up with the attendee list and have them pre-schedule some conversations with prospects.
  10. Be sure to gather all attendee contact information.
  11. Have an after-event plan: who will compile the insights you’ve gathered, who will follow-up with emails, phone calls and meetings to continue the conversations you’ve started.

Don’t forget

Remember, whether you organize your own targeted event, or participate in a tradeshow or conference, you’ll have the opportunity to meet people potentially interested in your offer. They might not immediately fall into your B2B lead generation sales pipeline at that event, but you’ll be better placed to approach them afterwards.

It’s because of the highly personal nature of these types of micro events that they are so successful. Face to face communication is always going to be the most effective marketing channel you can use. These events will require an investment of time and resources but if done well, you’ll make a great impression and will reap the rewards for a long time afterwards.

Find out how 360 Leads can help your business with a lead generation campaign. Contact us today!

A lead generation company with secret powers

Lead generation is the process of converting, and to some extent nurturing, business leads. The question of whether to hire an outside lead generation company is one that confronts many businesses who might otherwise consider doing this in-house. Nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities and businesses who nurture leads make 50% more sales at a lower cost than non-nurtured prospects. It’s not something you want to leave to chance. Hiring a lead generation company can make sense for a B2B business because they are focused solely on lead generation, have valuable industry expertise and can save your team time rather than trying to do this in-house. Here are the biggest reasons to hire someone to do it for you:

A lead generation company talks to the right people

Good lead generation is speaking to the right people at the right time, and it comes down to having the right contacts and the right data. Lead generation companies have access to databases with millions of business contacts covering a range of industries. Data specialists can determine which leads are qualified much more quickly than your own staff could.

They prioritize with lead scoring

An experienced lead generation firm will have proven methodologies that they can put to work on your case. Sales leads scoring is one of these techniques which can save a lot of time by not talking to people who aren’t as likely to convert.

They shorten the sales cycle

By having nurtured business leads sent to you the focus is firmly on selling, and the timeline to do so is much shorter. Time is money, and you will be saving plenty of it by having qualified leads sent directly to you.

They improve your company’s web presence

Many lead generation companies can assist with a blog strategy and SEO, so that potential customers can find you more easily through a web search. Then those prospects can be turned into leads and possible customers.

They can lower your costs

Developing a hiring and training program is costly. Sometimes it makes more sense to hire a company that is specialized and already has the skilled staff. Hiring a company to find leads frees up resources for other tasks. It eliminates the time and effort required to recruit and train staff.

They allow you to focus on your product or service

Whatever area of B2B your business operates in, one thing will ring true: it’s the USP of your company that generates revenue, and it’s the USP that you need to focus on. It’s the asset you possess which can’t be bought elsewhere and where you should focus your staff’s energies and resources. Outsourcing to an agency allows you to do just that.

How to find the right lead generation company

Before choosing an agency, it’s important to do your research. If possible, scan reviews, testimonials, and ask for referrals. Ask your shortlisted candidates questions about their processes, tools, and whether they have their own CRM software that will be able to integrate with your B2B CMS for a seamless experience.

While using a lead generation company will cost you money, it saves your business money too. So, unless you want to pay the true cost of generating your own leads, you’ll be wise to pass on the hidden costs to the experts.

You still have reservations about using an external company for B2B lead generation because you think they’ll take your money and run? That they’ll make a couple of calls and leave it at that? Well, it might surprise you to discover that not only will they deliver results, but they’ll deliver them in a variety of ways. Lead generation companies may specialize in one area, but often they’re multi-faceted experts who can cover all the following services:

• Email marketing
• SEO
• Social media
• Appointment setting
• Event promotion
• Content creation

In the B2B world, an individual sales lead or a sale can be worth a lot, so it’s important to put thought into the customer journey pre- and post-sale. Find out how 360 Leads can create a winning B2B lead generation campaign customized for your company and industry. Contact us today!

How to implement a B2B sales lead scoring system

Once you’ve got a reliable B2B sales lead pipeline, your focus shifts from getting those leads to identifying, nurturing, and closing them in order to make sales. But not all sales leads are created equal. You shouldn’t spend the same amount of time on every one that comes across your doorstep. Many companies have great website traffic, visitor engagement and repeat visitors that could all be considered warm leads. Developing specific scoring criteria on what is and isn’t a lead can be the difference between salespeople wasting their time and investing it against real prospects.

So how do you determine which ones are ready to commit to a purchase, which ones are lukewarm and need nurturing, and which are just kicking tires and not worth spending any time on?

Many advantages of a B2B sales lead scoring system

The way to answer those questions is to create a B2B sales lead scoring system. Lead scoring gives each one of those sales leads a ranking based on their activities – whether that’s on your website or through any of your content marketing devices, e.g. newsletters, social media posts or ads. The lead scorecard for each company will differ but not having one means there is no benchmark for determining what you classify as a sales-ready lead.

The power of scoring leads goes beyond simply boosting sales. You will find that it gives both sales and marketing a common language that helps to align them. Marketing will have a numerical value for each lead and can alter inbound marketing to target specific factors to generate more leads that meet specific criteria. It also allows marketing to better refine its messaging for top leads, testing approaches that might not work for less interested leads. For instance, you might be able to contact these leads more often or be more aggressive with your calls to action (CTAs). It also allows you to identify those highly satisfied customers who can act as champions for your company, especially when given encouragement through a targeted campaign.

How to keep B2B sales score

Setting up a scorecard can be relatively simple, by identifying the most important factors and giving them more weight than the “nice-to-haves.” First you need to establish the minimum criteria by which a customer is defined. These are qualifying characteristics, like: Must be in a specific service area, or Must be 21 years of age or older.  Then, identify the qualities that your targets usually possess. These are common but not necessarily essential, like the table stakes criteria we just discussed. The marketing department should be able to provide data here as they’ve likely done extensive research into who your typical customer is. Third step is to identify your ideal customer, those who the sales team would regard as having the most potential. What makes one prospect better than another? Someone in control of a certain size budget? A short timeframe in which to make a purchase?

Now that the characteristics have been listed it’s time to assess the behaviour of leads, the kinds of activities that suggest their level of interest and readiness to purchase. These activities are what moves them up or down the rankings, depending on the kind of activities they’ve engaged in and how frequently they’ve interacted.

Make a list of behaviours

Begin by listing all possible behaviour sales leads can engage in. While some behaviours are more important than others, it can be helpful to assign a point value to all behaviour (even if it is a very small value). So, don’t leave anything out just because it seems unimportant. Your scorecard should include site visits, fill forms, download requests, webinar participation and more. Here are some of the lead’s activities that earn points in the lead scoring model:

  • Visited a webpage
  • Number of website sessions
  • Participated in a webinar
  • Looked at pricing
  • Started a free trial
  • Filled out a contact form
  • Downloaded a lead magnet, like a white paper
  • Opened an email
  • Clicked on a link in a newsletter
  • Replied or forwarded an email
  • Shared content on social media

Some of these behaviors will be “critical conversion behaviours” (activities that most of your leads do prior to becoming customers). These might be things like signing up for a free trial or requesting a sales demo. A thorough analysis of your Google Analytics data should make these defining behaviours obvious.  Mark your critical conversion behaviours with a star so you can give them appropriate emphasis when it’s time to assign points to rules.

Assigning points

For most companies a straightforward 1-to-100-point model will be enough. For B2B lead generation, a company might want to use a thousand-digit ranking, giving small, medium and large businesses a 1, 2 and 3 first digit. So, a lead with a score of 3062 would be a large company with a 62-point score. Another technique is to define the three (or more) minimum criteria – “table stakes” – to be considered eligible as a lead. If you assign 100 points to each of these, and decide they need to have at least three of these essential characteristics to qualify, then a lead with a score of 435 would go into the pool, but one with a score of 282 would not. This ensures that a bad lead never makes its way to the sales team, no matter how many of the behaviours rules they trigger.

Reassess lead scoring criteria regularly

Setting up a sales lead scoring system can be as simple, or as complicated, as you can get, given your marketing data. You’ll have to tweak it as you use it and check it against conversions regularly to ensure you have set up a system that works. Remember: no matter how qualified a lead is, some will never convert. So be prepared to see some inconsistencies when reviewing results.

We know all about lead scoring because we’ve implemented it for dozens of our B2B clients in all kinds of industries. Learn more about how 360 Leads can help you put together a winning lead scoring system, by contacting us.

Best social media for lead generation

Social media for lead generation is a driving force in many facets of our daily lives and for B2B marketers social media platforms are now the number one content marketing tactic – ahead of blogs, articles, e-newsletters, videos, podcasts, white papers and case studies that should be part of your overall lead generation efforts. In other words, if you’re not on it, you’re not in it. Yet some businesses are overwhelmed by all the social networks and think they need to have a presence on all of them. This would be a mistake, as it is difficult enough to have a meaningful presence on one platform, let alone all of them. You would be stretching your marketing resources too thin; instead, for lead generation, focus on the platforms where most of your potential customers are, and build your social media presence from there.

Start by looking at your audience and researching which social media networks they most commonly use, how they use them, and which platforms best fit your products or services. For B2B lead generation, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the best bets. People turn to these sites to interact with their peers and friends, hear the latest news, track the markets and keep up with developments in their fields. For many users, social media is a form of professional development where they come to learn about new products and services that can help them in their own business. This makes it an ideal place to position your brand as a valued contributor of information to elevate your visibility among potential customer and clients. It’s a sell-free environment, meaning you can communicate and cultivate sales leads without the pressure of having to close. It’s a long game but one that you absolutely must be in, so here are some tips to make the most of your time and effort on the social networks.

The three goals of a B2B social media strategy are to build brand awareness, showcase your expertise, and make B2B sales contacts. Here’s how to do it on the top three B2B social media networks.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is perhaps the best platform for B2B lead generation, mainly because it’s filled with decision makers looking for ways to improve their business, find their own leads and strike up meaningful conversations. LinkedIn folks are receptive to a blog post that addresses something in their business that needs attention or a big fix. It’s also a place to stimulate thinking on aspects of their business they might not have thought about recently. One big bonus of this site is its notification system: whenever you visit a user’s LinkedIn profile that user is immediately alerted, and in most cases, they’ll check the profiles of anyone who’s viewed theirs. This acts as an introduction service, which is key for building awareness of your company before you actually initiate first contact. You can see which groups your target audience is a member of and can see what they’ve posted recently or commented on. This is invaluable in getting to know your prospects. Comment on their shared content, post your own relevant content and act as a friendly authority on the subject matter.

Twitter

A favourite of journalists, decision makers and a certain U.S. president, Twitter is where thousands of conversations are happening all at once. You will want to stay on top of your timeline so you can make contributions on a regular basis, whether that’s commenting on shared content, retweeting tweets and hashtagging keywords relevant to your industry, or following key people. One way to organize Twitter accounts you follow is by creating lists. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the accounts on that list so you don’t have to scroll through hundreds of general, and likely unrelated, tweets. For instance, if you’re in the automotive parts business, you could create a list of Manufacturers, another one called Automotive journalists, a third called Competitors. If you want to see what your competitors are tweeting, a list can make it easier to catch up on conversations. It takes a bit of organizing, but it is incredibly helpful if you want to use Twitter strategically instead of getting lost reading Twitter tirades and all the replies. Smartly crafted feeds can also be a great tool for social listening, especially if you’ve curated lists of your competitors. In addition to monitoring tweets, lists offer another way to keep tabs on the competition. From each competitor’s profile page, you can see what lists they’re subscribed to, and what lists they’re included on. This can give you valuable information about who your competitors are keeping an eye on and interacting with, so you can do the same.

Facebook for lead generation

If you think the world’s most popular social media network isn’t the place for B2B marketing, think again. Beyond brand and reputation management, with its massive audience and engagement, Facebook also provides invaluable advertising intelligence about your audience. Imagine using Facebook retargeting to show ads only to people who have visited your website. There are reams of data available once you establish a presence. Be aware of shameless self-promotion, or just posting offers or coupons. The idea is to sell your company’s story, provide useful information, and never try to fool your audience. Be honest, human and transparent and your audience will appreciate your candor and trust your insights.

By now you now that B2B social media works better as a tool that you can use to influence your sales targets, rather than a channel to direct conversions. Because social networking sites so thoroughly blend personal and professional interactions, it’s vital to never come across as a spambot fishing for leads. Instead, you should make a genuine effort to join conversations, add value to them, and in doing so present your brand in the best possible light. The ultimate goal is to ensure that each of your potential clients has laid eyes on your brand before you initiate first contact with them.

Find out how 360 Leads can help you harness the power of social media to generate B2B sales leads. Contact us today!

Three truths for a successful LinkedIn lead generation campaign

We know a thing, or hundreds, about successful LinkedIn lead generation campaigns. Why hundreds? We shipped 720 free coffee mugs to IT professionals across Canada who engaged with our LinkedIn campaign for Toshiba, as part of a larger LinkedIn sales lead generation campaign.

Now what do free coffee mugs have to do with successful B2B lead generation? While there are many things, there are three absolutes that we know can drive a highly successful LinkedIn lead generation campaign. So successful, that LinkedIn wrote a case study about it.

#1 Develop a key customer insight for your LinkedIn lead generation campaign

IT professionals have a tough job. The users they support need their gear to work, and when it doesn’t, you know who they will call. Yes, they have a two-hour battery life for a three-hour presentation and can’t find their charger. Our strategy was to make the IT professional the ‘unsung hero’ dealing with IT challenges and inviting them to engage with Toshiba to make their life easier. LinkedIn display ads, Sponsored Updates and Sponsored InMail were all part of the LinkedIn lead generation strategy based on the key insight of ‘unsung hero’.

#2 Create some creative that breaks through

Snoresville creative puts people to sleep. IT people, like most people, have a sense of humor. And with a sometimes no-win job, a sense of fun is the antidote for a tough day. Creative lines like “Mr. Awesome IT Guy” or “World’s #1 IT Gal” supported a free mug give-away that drove people to a landing page. One creative execution had two display ads connected in a fashion where the animation poured coffee into the free mug. The point of the free mug was for users to self identify they received the mug and for Toshiba sales reps to visit the IT professional to deliver the mug and have an IT conversation. You can view some of the LinkedIn creative here.

#3 Target the right audience

Mass LinkedIn marketing campaigns aren’t right for most products, with Toshiba being no different. Promoting business laptops and filling the sales pipeline with qualified B2B sales leads means targeting IT professionals in mid-market and larger companies. Why sell one notebook when you could sell three thousand with a standardized chip set? LinkedIn offers an ability to be quite targeted in reaching the right audience by geography, job title and as granular as industry or company. Do you know who your ideal customer is? Toshiba did and our campaigns, LinkedIn and beyond, put a sales rep in front of them.

People often comment that LinkedIn is great for brand awareness but wonder if it generates qualified B2B sales leads. As a top B2B sales lead generation company, we can tell you that LinkedIn has its strengths; the key is how to take advantage of the platform to deliver maximum lead generation results. Great customer insights, killer creative and pin-point targeting are the best ways to utilize LinkedIn.

On Toshiba, how did we do?

  • We booked hundreds of sales meetings with qualified sales prospects
  • Delivered LinkedIn leads at a lesser cost than some other channels
  • Sponsored InMail CTR 2X LinkedIn average
  • LinkedIn campaign drove 7% of total qualified leads during the campaign periods

For more information on how 360 Leads can help drive inbound sales leads from LinkedIn or other digital media, please contact us. We can help grow your business.

Marketing KPIs for B2B sales growth

Do you know whether your marketing is working for your B2B sales growth efforts? Whether it’s improving, or it needs assistance? Without a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) it’s impossible to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and determine whether you might need some lead generation assistance to boost B2B sales.

KPIs exist in every industry, but some are more revealing than others. Not all KPIs will have applicability to B2B sales and lead generation, and old school metrics like brand awareness or impressions aren’t as helpful as they were once thought to be. Here are some of the essential marketing KPIs that will give you clarity on whether your current marketing and lead generation efforts are paying off.

B2B Sales Growth

After all is said and done, the best way to measure the effectiveness of marketing is by seeing a concurrent uptick in sales growth. As you look at the trend, think of which marketing efforts have been applied in that period, and you will start to get a sense of which marketing tactics are contributing to growth and which aren’t moving the needle. Sales figures are something to share with the entire team so that all employees, regardless of their role, have the same goal: to drive sales skyward.

Cost of Customer Acquisition (COCA)

This is the cost of convincing a prospective customer to buy a product or service from you. For example, if you spent $100,000 on sales and marketing in a month and this resulted in 10 purchases, then your COCA would be $10,000. As your marketing strategy improves, this number should go down and each customer should cost less to acquire.

Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV)

While it’s not an exact science, the lifetime value of a customer is worth figuring out. Add up all sales your average customer has initiated over the course of your relationship and use this equation to find out the LTV of your average customer: revenue x gross margin x average # of repeat purchases.

Sales Team Response Time

Because the quality of a B2B sales lead degrades over time, sales response times are incredibly important. Yet, according to a study of the effect of sales response time on lead close rates, B2B leads typically receive shockingly slow response rates from sales teams, much slower than B2C leads. Perhaps there is less urgency in the world of B2B, but the fact is, the longer the gap between receiving a sales lead and responding to it, the less likely the sale will close. In fact, the study showed that “firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.” So start tracking response times and try to close that gap; it’ll pay off.

Email Marketing KPIs

Your email marketing strategy is one of the key lifelines to your customers so it’s essential you know how well each and every email has done. The most relevant marketing KPIs are delivery rate, unsubscribe rate, the open rate, the click-through rate, the conversion rate and the number of forwards or shares it got. By tracking these and improving on them with each new piece of email, you will be cultivating your audience.

Social Media

The reach and engagement on your social media platforms is of vital importance because this is how you both distribute content and interact with potential customers. Certain platforms might not be where you get the best traction. Find out which platforms make sense for your audience and where you can build a following and concentrate on those.

Remember, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. And if you are the marketing point person on your team, you need to be on top of it. Start with a few basic marketing KPIs and add to them as you become more proficient at assembling reports. We can help you get started.

At 360Leads we use our expertise to deliver a constant B2B sales growth pipeline of qualified new business opportunities to our clients. If you’d like to chat about how we can turbocharge your current marketing efforts, contact us.

Inbound and outbound marketing for sales lead generation: they work better together

No doubt you’ve heard about inbound and outbound marketing for sales lead generation. They’re often viewed as choices that a marketer makes when deciding how to generate B2B sales leads. Instead of thinking about this as a choice, it’s better to view them as complementary forces. Combining inbound and outbound forces can create a more cohesive – and powerful – marketing strategy.

Inbound: Content that attracts sales leads

Inbound marketing is a passive way of marketing, in which you wait for the customer to come to you, through content related to the solutions that your company can provide. These potential customers are out information shopping, and they likely have the budget to buy. However, they might not have heard of you, hence the importance of creating appealing content to draw them in.

Inbound: Make it relevant and diverse

Creating a diversity of content – from blog posts to white papers to podcasts on hot topics – helps strengthen your reputation and the likelihood these interested readers become buyers. Yet inbound won’t necessarily get the whole job done, since it also draws people who are not necessarily qualified leads. It also takes time and patience as you attract an audience. In other words, inbound marketing shouldn’t be the only strategy that you deploy.

Outbound: Requires a deft touch

Outbound marketing is traditional marketing which actively reaches out to customers where they are most likely to be and appeals to them directly, through advertising, direct mail or phone calls. These methods draw prospects into the sales funnel while clearly and overtly positioning your products and services. Outbound requires that you find customers who aren’t necessarily looking for your products or services – in fact they may know nothing about it at all.  But once they’re presented with your offering, they can see a need.

Outbound: The interruption factor

Outbound marketing enables you to choose your target audience, (something inbound is notoriously bad at doing), but there is a risk. It can feel intrusive to buyers who are used to dictating when, where and how they educate themselves. Since outbound techniques tend to be focused on the immediate, i.e. the call from a sales rep, the banner ad, or the webinar currently taking place, one way to lessen the interruption factor is by combining it with inbound marketing techniques to familiarize buyers with your company before more direct contact is made.

Soften the hard sell by combining inbound and outbound marketing for sales lead generation

The smartest marketers combine both approaches in their B2B sales strategies. Here are a few examples of how you can mesh inbound and outbound marketing activities into a cohesive sales and marketing strategy:

  • After meeting with a client, instead of the usual thank you note, why not send a link to a piece of content related to what you and the prospect discussed?
  • Create a customized email blast for your clients, prospects, colleagues to let them know about your blog and ask them to subscribe to it. This is a great example of inbound and outbound working together and can be used to promote any type of content like video, e-books, and white papers.
  • Advertisements, email marketing and hard copy mailers are all examples of traditional outbound marketing tactics that can be effective when done correctly. But don’t let ads or hard copy mailers “stand alone.” Make them even more effective with calls to action. Include an effective CTA to draw prospects to the content you’ve already created through your inbound marketing strategies. Ask them to subscribe to your blog, follow you on Facebook, download an e-book, or watch a video.

Ultimately it’s a combination of both inbound and outbound strategies – along with qualifying digital sales leads properly – that increase the odds of closing a deal. If you’d like to learn how we blend inbound and outbound marketing techniques to create customized lead generation solutions for our clients, please give us a call.

Inbound versus outbound: which is more effective for lead generation?

With every new platform come new ways to reach out to potential customers, and B2B company marketers have a wide selection of tactics to choose from when planning a strategy. Simply put, these tactics fall into two main categories – inbound and outbound lead generation tactics – though the two are often combined in an integrated strategy. But what are the main differences between inbound and outbound marketing? Simply put, outbound marketing is the kind we grew up with – TV, radio and billboards, magazine and newspaper ads, direct mail and event sponsorships – whereas inbound draws customers to the product or service because of their innate interest in it.

A bit of history we all know too well

In the early years when advertising was novel, people enjoyed reading magazines and newspapers and relied on them to alert them to sales and promotions. People enjoyed watching TV commercials because they were told about products that were genuinely new and that they were interested in learning more about. As the decades passed, advertising lost its value to surprise and delight in the same way. Today we call it interruption-based marketing, which few people have any patience for anymore.

But it still has its adherents, who believe there can be value if you find a platform or medium with a big enough audience. The rationale is, and was, that if you hit upon an above average association with enough audience members, then that percentage of the audience would listen to the interruption and sales leads would convert into bonafide customers. But today, this kind of investment is looking more and more like finding a needle in a haystack. A big reason is the availability of ad-blocking apps and technology, along with new streaming services that are completely ad-free.

What the stats tell us

A couple of statistics to prove that point: 65% of people skip through online video ads. People don’t like ads for a few reasons: they’re in your face and intrusive; they don’t come across as genuine and don’t inspire trust or confidence in the product or service; there isn’t enough relevance to who the customer is, and what solution they are looking for.

B2B marketers might continue to place advertisements and send out direct mail as part of their approach. But to earn the trust of customers and build a long-term relationship based on that trust, B2B marketers turn to inbound marketing for generating sales leads.

Instead of pushing messages out to an audience who may or may not want to hear it, inbound marketing pulls already interested customers in. Customers find you when they need you, which almost guarantees they’re pre-qualified. So not only is inbound cheaper, more measurable and more targeted, it can also generate sales leads that are farther down the funnel.

Here is a short list of some lead generation inbound tactics:

  • An SEO (search engine optimization) strategy where we take a look at your website, do a keyword audit, and ensure your content includes keywords that will draw more organic traffic to your site.
  • PPC (pay per click) advertising also uses keywords that people are using to search and require buying an ad that will appear on search engines at the top of the SRP (search results page). You only pay once a customer has clicked on the ad and has gone to your site.
  • Content marketing is creating useful, relevant information that people need and want, and using it to draw people to your website, to sign up for a newsletter, or to download a piece of content in exchange for their contact information that you can follow up with.
  • Social media accounts. Creating and programming social media accounts with valuable information that people want to read or watch is a good way of demonstrating your expertise in your industry and becoming a trusted source. As noted above, millennials and more people in the business world actively search for this and you will earn their trust which hopefully converts them into a paying customer.

At 360 Leads we’ve run many successful B2B lead generation campaigns and would be happy to discuss how we can help. If you’re ready to explore a lead generation campaign, contact us today.

 

Generate leads by opening the gates to your content

The majority of B2B content to generate leads is gated, meaning to get access to information, users must submit some of their personal details. But is this the best approach? Consider that once you’ve put the final touches on a white paper or a case study and you’re ready to unleash it on the world, putting it behind a gate could reduce its download rate by about 95 per cent.  That might be fine if you already have a profile in your market, like IBM or Cisco. But what if you’re in the middle of rebranding or just starting to put yourself out there as an expert? Wouldn’t it be more important to create meaningful touchpoints and get the word out about your services or solutions to as many people as possible, rather than just lock it up and hope the downloads happen?

A one-two punch for generating leads

While gated content remains a mainstay of B2B lead generation marketing, some experts believe a one-two punch works better. Real-Time Marketing and PR author David Meerman Scott suggests companies offer one of their best pieces of content ungated and at the end of it list a secondary and equally compelling offer. The idea is that if you show customers the kind of expertise you can provide, they will want more. If you immediately ask for emails and info before providing any information, you’re setting up an adversarial relationship that is a turn-off for most people.

Scott estimates that ungated content gets between 20 and 50 times more downloads, therefore a gated white paper that gets 2000 downloads could potentially get up to 100,000 if offered up for free. Then, if just 5 per cent of them go for the second piece, you’ll end up with potentially 5000 sales leads.

Generate leads with gated versus ungated

There are believers in gated content who say experience has shown them that gating content is the better way to acquire sales leads. Debra Ellis, founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting tried ungating and gating the same piece of content on alternate days. While she found that downloads were almost 50 times higher on ungated days, the contacts who ended up calling her company had downloaded the guide on a gated day.  It proved to her that those who are seeking the kind of information and service your company can provide, are willing to pass through the gate to get to the stuff they want.

Both insights are valid when it comes to demand generation performance, but if you have a piece of content that is dynamite, why not offer it for free? It’s a way of getting your expertise, services or solutions out there, and those who take you up on your second gated piece are those who really want to work with you in the long run.

To recap, creating great content is no longer the finish line, it’s the starting line in successful lead generation business campaigns for a conversation with your customer. Businesses have to cultivate new relationships starting with some “no obligation, risk-free information” that will help potential customers with their everyday struggles. If you deliver relevant, actionable business information to readers, they will want to keep getting that from you, and your content will have done its primary job of generating sales leads.

B2B lead generation leaders are…

B2B Lead generation is a massive industry, with countless verticals capturing qualified leads that can be sold to companies looking to acquire new customers. But according to The Black Report, only 17.3 per cent of companies actually reach their lead generation targets.

There are different lead generation verticals geared to different industries, but the most effective are those which attract numerous, deep-pocketed buyers with a high volume of search traffic (as opposed to a reliance on personal recommendations). A few of the standouts are the legal and education industry, in which the value of a converted lead is high. Some others are business and professional services (which reach 23.3 per cent of their targets), Technology (which reaches 21.4 per cent), and Financial services (which reach 41.7 per cent of their targets).

But what, beyond their demographics and size, do these markets have in common that leads them to perform better in B2B sales performance?

A few things.

People looking for legal services and educational opportunities are actively searching online and are typically heavy users of digital services, and therefore easier to reach with an online lead generation campaign. Sales lead generation is a better-established practice in financial and professional service industries, and digital lead generation has a long standing prevalence in technology industries, so the fact that these sectors are top performers in this area is understandable.

Manufacturing (where lead generation reaches just 7.7 per cent of their targets), and the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries (reaching just 12.5 per cent) are more recent adopters of lead generation, so there’s a learning curve there. In addition, these companies may have less marketing-oriented cultures, and may operate in environments with rigorous regulatory and privacy requirements that limit certain types of lead generation activities.

If this sounds like your company, you might need to retool your lead generation programs to get better results, and that means:

  • Examining channel choices, measuring ROI, eliminating what isn’t working, and doing more of what is.
  • Combining a mix of tactics anchored by relevant offers to build effectiveness across all channels.
  • Matching budget priorities to B2B sales objectives to ensure lead generation is sufficiently resourced.

If you are handling your own lead generation you have to find a way to bring sales, marketing and operations to the table to commit to a shared focus and accountability for topline growth. For some companies this is easier said than done, with teams widely dispersed or working remotely which can prove difficult to coordinate. Sometimes it makes more sense to get an outside lead generation company to put their focus and expertise to work for you.

A lead generation company can address specific needs, such as these:

  • If data acquisition is an issue, an expert can provide specific, targeted data matched to an ideal customer profile (industry, business size, geographic location, job title etc.).
  • If lead generation program strategy and planning is weak, an expert can create an efficient, systemized approach to lead sourcing, nurturing, qualifying and sales appointment booking.
  • If website results are limited, a digital lead generation expert can improve website metrics and develop digital advertising campaigns and optimized landing pages.
  • If outbound telemarketing isn’t getting results, a lead generation expert can get sales reps off the phone and in front of the right people.
  • If there’s a great story to tell, but it isn’t being told, a lead generation company with integrated marketing and communications expertise can help craft a compelling brand message and awareness-building campaigns.
  • For companies of every size, effective, ongoing sales lead generation is the foundation for sustained topline business growth. If it’s not on the radar as a key strategic priority, it should be.

Learn more about how we can help you with qualified B2B sales leads by contacting us.

B2B sales lead generation is changing thanks to AI

B2B sales lead generation has always been an inherently human activity but with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) applications, companies are going to be rewiring their B2B lead generation tactics. Here are two key ways AI can assist marketers in capturing sales leads.

Personalization

Big data is being captured in unprecedented ways and in massive volumes and can provide companies with deep insights about behavioural patterns of both existing and potential customers. AI can then use those insights to develop a unified customer view and deep understanding of each customer at an individual level previously not possible. AI can then learn to respond in a way that is targeted directly at the customer’s location, context and values, three essential understandings that can personalize marketing strategies.

Potential sale leads can be filtered based on whether they hit a threshold of time spent on a page or visit key pages that have been identified as qualifiers. It all adds up to more personal interactions and a heightened chance of eventually closing a deal.

Chatbots and 24/7 B2B sales lead generation

Imagine an AI chatbot that feels both authentic and personal, reacting to queries with original content of a high EQ, while conversing naturally. Imagine that AI available 24/7, to respond, deliver messages and provide vital information to potential leads. That is what is referred to as “affective computing” which will allow an AI to interact in a way that feels truly, authentically human. For this to work, the AI must be able to convey empathy and detect emotion.

The AI chatbot is coming to a website or Facebook page near you, (probably yours if you don’t have one already), and once activated it will bring startling changes that will revolutionize your lead generation. Chatbots will be able to recognize what campaign brought the person to the website and can use that information to start a conversation about the most relevant topic, through targeted outreach based on users’ previous interactions with the brand. An AI chatbot will fire up a conversation with a potential customer, assist them with their inquiry, and deliver a lead to your sales team who would otherwise not have engaged with the company.  This can help enormously at a time when visitors to websites are increasingly impatient with filling out online forms and wondering whether the information they get in return is worth the effort.

Measurement matters

As the digital tools that companies use to measure the effectiveness of their digital campaigns proliferate, marketing executives will be under even more pressure to justify their investments than they already are. It could be that AI-fuelled chatbots, though traditionally relegated to customer service, are the ROI-proving answer that marketing managers have been waiting for. If they live up to their promise, they will turn visitors into qualified leads, connect the dots between an ad campaign and a conversion, and give CMOs the much-needed answers they deserve.

Find out how 360 Leads can help your business get AI-ready with an integrated B2B sales lead generation campaign. Contact us today!

If you want sales leads, pay for the fans on social media

What is the appeal of social media for brands? Engaging potential sales leads? Starting conversations? Building communities? Not quite. Till recently, social media attracted marketers in large part because it was a totally free form of lead generation. Of course, that’s changed.

Now, if you want your brand messaging to get eyeballs and interactions, you’ve got to pay to play. That’s because most of the time, your content just isn’t going to go viral. Sure, there are viral phenomena that make the rounds of the Internet, but it’s crucial to remember that these are the exceptions—not something to rely on.

In a recent study, Sprinkler estimated that the average Facebook user is exposed to about 1,500 stories every time they log on, while the extra social user is exposed to 15,000. Every one of these stories has to compete against others for newsfeed real estate and user attention. Facebook’s algorithm determines which posts get prime positioning: it considers engagement potential and the investment made to drive engagement—sponsored posts get favoured. So, is the end of free social media a catastrophic loss or an untapped opportunity for sales lead generation? In fact, it’s a massive opportunity waiting to be harnessed through:

Promoted tweets for sales leads

Target the people you’re trying to reach by geography, interest and gender, and have your tweets appear in a feed, or in specific searches. Set a maximum amount to pay per click, follow, retweet, reply or favourite.

Promoted posts for sales leads

Get your message in front of the people who matter most by breaking through the clutter and building exposure with posts that appear higher and more often in Facebook newsfeeds.

LinkedIn ads for sales leads

Advertise B2B offerings on prominent pages to potential sales leads, targeting by job title and function, industry, company size, seniority and age, and groups. Choose between pay-per-click (PPC) to drive response and pay-per-impression (PPI) to build awareness. Maximize ROI with special offers, whitepapers, free trials and demos.

Instagram for sales leads

Benefit from an almost exclusively millennial audience and 58% more engagement than Facebook. According to Union Metrics, Taco Bell saw a 29% point gain in ad recall for the rollout of its breakfast menu, and its Instagram following jumped 45% during its month-long ad campaign.

Ready to get in the lead generation game? Talk to us at 360 Leads about where to start.