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Lead Tracking Leads B2B Marketers to Answers

,How many leads did your marketing team generate last year? This simple question can be hard to answer for many B2B marketers because tracking leads is a complicated process, especially if you don’t have automated systems in place. However, being able to confidently answer this and other questions around marketing’s contribution to lead generation and revenue will:

  • insure company growth
  • justify increasing budget dollars for your marketing efforts
  • improve marketing’s lead generation effectiveness

B2B marketers need to utilize a system for lead tracking to answer these questions.

Let’s discuss what lead tracking is and how to get started, even if you’re a marketing “team” of one or two, or lack an automated lead tracking system.

What is lead tracking?

One of the most important responsibilities for a B2B marketer or marketing team is to generate leads. In its simplest form a lead is an individual who is interested in your product or service. And a simple lead management process is one where marketing generates a lead, then passes it over to the sales team who “close” the lead as either a won or lost sale.

Lead tracking is the ability to track each lead from initial inquiry via a marketing channel (online or offline) or campaign (digital ad, email, direct mail etc.) response through to a closed sale (won or lost).

This simple lead tracking and management process can get complicated very quickly. For example, is the lead located in a geographic area your company sells into, which sales person gets which leads, how does marketing hand off the lead information, and how does sales notify marketing of closing the sale. These are just some of the lead tracking details you typically need to work through. Read more

3 Ways B2B Marketers Can Get in Step with Sales

Anyone on a corporate marketing team can attest that alignment with the sales team can be challenging. For example, 48% of B2B marketers indicated sales and marketing alignment was a top priority for their organization’s lead generation efforts in 2017 according to The 2017 Demand Generation Benchmark Report.

Aligned B2B marketing and sales teams result in higher overall effectiveness for both teams and, most importantly, revenue growth. So how aligned is your marketing team with the sales team? Read on to learn three ways to align marketing and sales. Read more

4 Tips for Conquering the Top Decision Stage Challenges

Part 3 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey

I discussed in Part 1: Awareness stage challenges and in Part2: 6 Tips for Conquering Consideration Stage Challenges.  In Part 3 of this 3-Part series, I’ll discuss the Decision stage of the buyer’s journey and provide tips for overcoming the top B2B content marketing challenges in the Decision stage.

Decision stage buyer activities

The buyer moves into the Decision stage once they know the best type of solution for solving their problem or opportunity for improvement. They are ready to buy, but haven’t decided exactly which vendor to use, but your company made their short list. During the Decision stage the buyer is typically researching their short list vendors online. The buyer wants to understand the specific products, services, and capabilities of each vendor on their short list to determine which vendor is the best fit for their needs. They are looking for content that helps them:

  • compare vendors and pricing
  • sell the solution internally to upper management (return on investment, ROI calculators)
  • purchase and implement the solution

BuyerJourney

The goal for a content marketer during the Decision stage is to convince the buyer your solution is the best fit for them.

Content marketing in the Decision stage

For most B2B companies, the Decision stage is where others such as purchasing and upper management become active participants in the buying decision. So it’s important Read more

Challenges in the Consideration Stage: 6 Tips for Conquering

Part 2 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey

In Part 2 of this 3-Part series, I share the top challenges I’ve experienced and observed B2B marketers face when developing Consideration stage content and provide tips for overcoming these challenges. In Part 1 I reviewed the Buyer’s Journey and provided tips for conquering challenges in the Awareness stage. The buyer moves into the next stage, Consideration, once they have clearly defined their problem or opportunity for improvement, and determined it’s worth finding a solution. Now let’s take a look at the Consideration stage in the buyer’s journey to understand the top challenges B2B marketers face.

BuyerJourney

Consideration stage buyer activities

The buyer in the Consideration stage first researches and evaluates the different approaches, methods, or solution strategies available for solving their problem or making improvements. The buyer wants to understand and think about which approach best fits their needs, so they are comparing solution strategies (make or buy, hire or outsource are two examples of solution approaches). They also begin comparing specific solutions, vendors, and suppliers within the approach that best fits their needs. They are looking for content that helps them understand the pros and cons of available approaches and why it would be the best fit for them.  Content should also begin comparing product/service features and functions. The goal for a content marketer during the Consideration stage is to convince the buyer your solution method is the best fit for them and that your specific solution should be on their short list.

Top 2 content marketing challenges in Consideration stage

Especially for B2B companies, the buyer usually spends more time in the Consideration stage than the awareness stage because they want to devote time to researching to ensure they make the best decision. The content marketer should provide more in-depth information and industry expertise to continue building a trusting relationship with the buyer and reinforcing your brand as a thought leader. Read more

Tips for Conquering the Top 2 Challenges in the Awareness Stage

Part 1 in a 3-Part Series on Content Marketing for the B2B Buyer’s Journey

B2B content marketing seeks to provide helpful and compelling content for each stage of the Buyer’s Journey. By thinking about what actions a buyer is taking in each stage, we as B2B marketers should provide content that educates and helps the buyer progress to the next stage in the Buyer’s Journey and toward our product or service.

In a three-part series of blogs over the next several weeks I’ll address the primary challenges B2B content marketers face during each stage of the buyer’s journey and provide tips for how to conquer these challenges. So let’s jump in!

Review of the buyer’s journey

First, a quick review of the buyer’s journey which defines the typical actions and steps a prospective buyer takes from first understanding their problem to finally purchasing a solution. By defining specific phases or stages along the journey we can better understand what information the buyer needs in each stage. There are many different buyer’s journeys available, some more granular than others. I prefer HubSpot’s Buyers Journey, shown in the graphic below, because it is easy to understand and more than adequate for content marketing purposes.

BuyerJourneyThe entire journey has only three stages, Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. In this blog, Part 1 of 3, I discuss the Awareness stage.

Awareness stage buyer activities

During the Awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, the buyer is just becoming aware there is a problem that may need to be solved or is discovering an opportunity for improvement. The buyer is typically researching online and offline to better understand if they have a problem or opportunity and if it’s worth further investigation. They are looking for trustworthy educational content that is not trying to sell and helps them more clearly define their problem or opportunity. The goal for a content marketer during the Awareness stage is to gain the buyer’s attention by offering educational and helpful content in the places where the buyer is looking and researching.

Top 2 content marketing challenges in Awareness stage

Assuming you know and have defined your target Personas (read my post, B2B Buyer Personas: 6 Easy Ways to Research & Develop, if you need help creating Personas) and have compelling content appropriate for the Awareness stage, your top 2 challenges for Read more

B2B Buyer Personas: 6 Easy Ways to Research & Develop

In my previous post I shared 7 reasons B2B marketers need buyer personas. A buyer persona describes your ideal customer so that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attract, convert, and nurture the right people.

Now that you’re convinced you need buyer personas, these tips will help you get started. According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study high-performing companies use a variety of methods to compile insights about their buyers, while underperforming companies reported using fewer sources of data. So use as many of the tips below as you can to research and develop your buyer personas.

Here are 6 tips for researching and developing your buyer personas:

1. Create (steal) a persona template – The first thing you need to know is what information will describe and personify your ideal customer so that it’s meaningful to internal users in marketing and sales. Create a buyer persona template with sections for the types of information you want to collect.

Why start from scratch when you can get persona templates for free. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll find many more in addition to these – HubSpot Buyer Persona Guide, Content Marketing Institute Target Persona Template, Content4Demand Buyer Profile Playbook. The HubSpot and CMI templates are simple to use, but I like the Content4Demand templates which are downloadable from within their Playbook because they are more comprehensive, providing a richer description of the persona. As you review the templates, take what makes sense for your situation to create your own custom buyer persona template. With this in hand, the rest of your persona research will fill in the blanks.

2. Analyze customer and prospect data – According to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America 64% of marketers use a dedicated email platform while 51% use a marketing automation system. That’s a lot of contact data. Plus you’ve likely got a CRM system with even more customer and prospect data. Mine your contact data for things like contact titles, company types, gender, and vertical. Use this information to focus in on specific LinkedIn profiles (see #5 below), or segment and send a survey to your contacts to gather insights.

It is concerning to see that only 47% of B2B marketers use buyer personas according to the B2B Content Marketing 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America even though more than half use a dedicated email platform or marketing automation system. Apparently these marketers aren’t convinced they need buyer personas.

3. Interview sales – Your frontline sales people know who they want as customers and who have made the best customers in the past. The same goes for Key Account or National Account sales people. So interview your sales team to learn who they see as your ideal customer. Be sure to pick sales people from the different geographies you sell into and with experience in the persona’s vertical. It may also be insightful to interview sales support or account managers, depending on your product/service and company structure, since these people probably know your existing customers better than anyone else.

Attending regional or national sales meetings is a great way to get in-person interviews with sales, but picking up the phone works too, especially if timing is an issue. Interviewing sales team members has the added bonus of helping align sales and marketing.

4. Interview your customers and prospects – There’s nothing better than hearing firsthand what your customers and prospects think, how they find information, and who they look to for advice. If you have time and access, conduct in-person or phone interviews with customers and prospects.

Trade shows can be a great place to do quick in-person interviews, as are sales ride-alongs. Or filter through your CRM database with guidance from sales to find suitable customers and prospects to interview over the phone. Be sure to keep the call less than 30 minutes, 15 minutes is better.

5. Use LinkedIn – Search LinkedIn to find real customers, prospects, and others similar to them using titles, companies, and verticals. Look at individual profiles to learn their education level, interests, “typical” background, certifications, associations, and years of experience. See what LinkedIn groups they belong to and who they follow. LinkedIn job postings for the titles/roles you are researching provide additional insight into education, background and experience, certifications, plus their responsibilities and goals. You may need a LinkedIn Premium account to see the information you want, but can drop back to a free Basic account afterwards.

6. Interview customer service – You may need to understand and describe those who actually use your product, a user persona, especially if your marketing efforts include customer retention goals. The user of your product or service often has direct influence on renewal/repurchase decisions. Your customer service reps know better than anyone in your company what describes your ideal user – their challenges, typical titles/role in the company, where they go to get information, and how their input factors into the buying decision.

You may only need one persona to improve your marketing results and can add others later. Developing buyer personas is a bit like exercising — it can be hard to get going and there’s many ways to go about it. But like the Nike slogan – Just Do It! Using these tips can make getting started on your highest priority persona easy.

What techniques have you found effective for researching and developing B2B buyer personas?

 

7 Reasons Every B2B Marketing Strategy Needs Buyer Personas

How confident are you that your B2B marketing efforts are targeting the right audience? Most B2B buyers today self-educate long before reaching out to sales.

You’ve seen the numbers — 57% of the purchase decision happens before sales gets involved according to CEB and 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally according to SiriusDecisions – so it’s more important than ever that your social posts, emails, website, blogs, and other marketing content attract, convert, and nurture the right people – your ideal customer or buyer persona.

Here are 7 reasons you need buyer personas for B2B marketing success:

  1. B2B buying is complicated – Most B2B buying decisions aren’t made by one person. Sure, there may be a single signature on the contract or PO, but usually a buying team has purchasing, technical and functional experts, as well as senior management weighting in on final B2B purchase decisions. In fact, CEB’s research shows that an average of 5.4 people are involved in B2B buying decisions. Personas help marketing reach and influence each person on the buying team.
  2. Helps you prioritize – Every marketing team has limited resources. The process of developing personas helps you and your marketing team (and sales for that matter) really home in on your ideal prospects for growth. In addition to the role of your ideal customer (see above), developing personas forces everyone to think about and prioritize verticals, geography, etc. that will drive growth for your organization.
  3. Improves sales and marketing alignment – Since marketing works closely with sales to develop personas, this naturally drives alignment between marketing and sales teams. Marketing will learn from sales, and marketing and sales will be aligned on reaching the priority prospects. The personas you develop can become part of sales on-boarding to help new sales reps ramp up more quickly and align them with marketing.
  4. Improves lead quality –Creating your marketing campaigns and content with your persona in mind will naturally attract people more likely to convert to leads. And those leads will be easier to segment for more targeted, personalized and engaging campaigns resulting in more effective nurturing. Marketing will be handing off higher quality leads to sales – sales will love you!
  5. Better focus channels – Assuming you’ve done your research right, you’ll know where your personas go to get information, educate themselves, and research new solutions. This means you can devote resources and promote your content to the channels where your personas are, not where you think they might be, saving both time and money.
  6. Improves content topic ideation – Without personas your team will be wasting time trying to guess what topics will be of interest, or even worse, developing content that never gets seen. Well-developed personas clearly spell out pain points and challenges, interests, common problems, goals, etc. which makes it much easier to develop topics that will resonate with and engage your ideal prospect.

During the persona development process you will invariably uncover internal resources for developing future topics and content.

7. Quicker and better content – Having a persona to share when making content development requests or assignments helps ensure it’s written with the right audience in mind, no matter if it’s written by a new marketing team member, guest blogger, outside writer, or internal subject matter expert. This saves time and improves your content.

According to Cintell’s Understanding B2B Buyers: The 2016 Benchmarking Study, companies that exceeded their lead and revenue goals were 2.2 times more likely to have and document buyer personas than companies that miss their goals. So what’s holding you back? Isn’t it time you made formalized buyer personas a priority for your B2B marketing success? In my next blog I’ll provide tips for how to go about developing buyer personas.

 

Digital: 3 Marketing Fundamentals That Still Matter

I was reminded recently how important it is to have an understanding of marketing fundamentals to deliver successful B2B digital marketing. I attended a couple of webinars that covered aspects of content marketing and lead generation. While they talked about specific digital tactics like email, landing pages and SEO, they also spent a good deal of time talking about marketing fundamentals. My guess is many who are tasked with digital marketing today may not have marketing education or experience. So while they know how to use digital tools and channels, the marketing fundamentals covered in these types of webinars are very useful and educational for them.

Below I highlight three examples of fundamental marketing concepts every B2B marketer needs to know for any strategy, whether it’s digital or not.

Know Your Audience

The buzzword today is persona, but knowing who your best prospects are (influencers and decision makers) and how to reach them is the foundation of any B2B marketing strategy. Who do you want to reach? What topics interest them and what problem(s) can you solve for them? When they have a problem where do they look for information and how do they consume it?

If you don’t know who you’re writing for, no matter if it’s a blog post, web landing page, phone script, direct mail postcard, or case study, it won’t be relevant and you won’t be able to attract or move your ideal prospects further along their buying journey.

Segmentation

Your B2B prospects aren’t all the same. Some common differences include:

  • Ways they use your product/service
  • Industry terms and language
  • Topics that interest them
  • Value they place on various aspects of your offering.

For these reasons it’s important to define and create meaningful segments for your marketing messaging and strategy.

If you know your audience (see above), then creating segments to target, say by specific verticals or functional roles, will become more obvious. Your marketing campaigns can be more personalized, compelling and engaging for your target audience.

 Good Data is Paramount

More isn’t always better, especially when it comes to marketing data. From trade show and webinar attendee lists, CRM systems data, and website form fill data to click through and download data, B2B marketers need effective best-practice processes for ongoing data maintenance and quality.

The digital era has only accelerated and exacerbated data quality issues, generating large amounts of often inaccurate data. Low quality Contact data (studies show nearly 25% of B2B contact data goes bad annually) decreases marketing’s effectiveness and reputation with the sales team (ex. bad phone numbers), and makes generating meaningful metrics and analysis difficult.

While we may focus much of our B2B marketing efforts and budget on digital tactics, it’s still important to have an integrated strategy built on fundamental marketing concepts. I’ve only touched on three concepts in this post. What fundamental marketing concept have you seen missing in B2B digital marketing efforts?