Add Content & Social Media – An Integrated Approach To B2B Lead Generation

No one claimed Lead Generation was easy – especially when you are in the B2B space. There are so many moving parts that a key problem becomes how to get them all pulling in the same direction. You may have one or more of the following teams contributing to demand generation:

  1. Research team keeping track of market developments
  2. Contact discovery or database research team building the lists
  3. Content creation team responsible for collateral, campaign drafts etc.
  4. Social Media team
  5. Inside Sales and / or Telemarketing team
  6. Pre-Sales and / or Sales team

You may be getting a sense of the possible complexities just looking at this list. Pretty much every organisation I have spoken to over the last 3 – 4 years has people doing some of these activities. The problem I have usually found is that they all work within their own individual silos. The activity levels are always high and each individual team is usually capable but the result when they come together is generally somewhat underwhelming. My own view is this happens because there is usually no “big picture” view being taken. If you get all these groups working towards a common goal chances are the synergies will lead to much better results.

Let’s consider the example of an organisation that has services to offer to companies in the Cloud space and how an integrated approach would work for them.

  1. The team keeping an eye on the market could come up with a finding that of late cloud file storage companies seem to be attracting funding.
  2. This could be the trigger for the content generation team to start putting together collateral that would be of relevance to this sector – say a white paper about a technology trend and it’s applicability or a user case study of a success story in the same or a comparable space
  3. The next step for the content team would be to start working on reasonably customized crafted emails targeted to sub-segments within the larger Cloud File Storage segment.
  4. While this is going on the Contact Discovery team could be hard at work building a database of companies and individual decision makers within those organisations who could be receptive to the message.
  5. On getting sufficient content ready the next step is to make it available on the specific social media platforms the target customers are likely to gather on to inform themselves. In the context of the example this may be Cloud focused LinkedIn groups as an illustration.
  6. There is also a case for tracking specific influencers in the Cloud Storage space – say the CTOs of the target Cloud Storage organisations. The objective would be to build a map of their social media life – their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, their blog and so on. Sharing what they have to say in a great way to learn from their experience as also to get on their radar. This is a longer term strategic activity – the objective is to connect with them and engage with them at their own terms on ground they feel comfortable on.
  7. Now it’s time to launch the outreach campaigns – first email and then telemarketing, assuming that is right for the business. The chance that someone will respond to the outreach is proportionately greater if they have encountered the company or some useful content in the digital or social world previously.
  8. Key is integrating the outreach program into the sales process – not only to ensure that any leads that get generated receive the prompt attention they demand but also to be able to build any feedback received at any stage back into the appropriate point of the process.
  9. Rinse and Repeat!

My personal view is that if the end objective is that more people should respond positively to your outreach efforts then it’s pretty much mandatory that an integrated approach be followed. Chances are otherwise the results will more often than not be lower than the quality of the team and the visible activity level would suggest.

Back to Basics – Where To Start With Marketing?

There’s a clear and present danger in all that we do as marketers – the danger that our day-to-day tasks will suck us so deep into frequent “rinse-repeat” cycles of activities that we will lose sight of the end objective. Tactics often overwhelm Strategy with volume – sometimes to get a better view of the end goal you need to take a step back to where it all started. Let’s call this post an attempt to focus some attention back to those first principles.

Segmentation

So, you have built the proverbial better mousetrap. You have also pored through all the available information in market research reports and on the web. You understand the universe of buyers that need mousetraps is broken up into groups based on the homogeneity in their specific needs, their criteria for making purchase decisions, the way they make their purchases and so on. Incidentally that is as good a definition of Segmentation as any. What do we do next?

Targeting

The next step is Targeting. Based on what you now know about the size, attractiveness and accessibility of each segment you need to carefully consider the specific segment that makes the most sense for you to try to sell your mousetrap to ? Each segment has different problems they want solved and different things they value and you want to find the one that is most likely to value the specific capabilities of your mousetrap. Incidentally marketing experts will tell you that you need to first find what the market wants and then put a product / service offering together for the segment you pick – but given that you have already built your better mousetrap we no longer have that option do we?

Buyer Persona

The modern marketer then calls for the police sketch artist – figuratively. The trend these days is to try to define a Buyer Persona. A kind of research based identikit portrait of a specific person representative of the wider buyer community. As an example for your mousetrap one persona could be Jill, a single mom with a 2 year old son who lives in a quiet suburban community. This persona helps marketing and sales in latter stages of the marketing / sales cycle concentrate the messaging and other activities – anything Jill is unlikely to respond to is probably not a great approach to take for all those buyers like her.

Positioning

Next up is Positioning – an attempt to define your mousetrap in terms that clearly identifies its specific place in the market especially with respect to all the other solutions out there designed to help Jill address her rodent problem. The final objective is to create a unique place for your mousetrap in the mind of buyers like Jill. Closely tied into this stage is the Messaging you use. The definitions, language, descriptions and terms that you use for your mousetrap has to be consistent with the positioning you have chosen and the buyer persona that you are communicating with. If Jill is believed to be technically inclined then she may value knowing the tensile strength and the gauge of steel wire used in the trap and in this case the product brochure should mention that – otherwise not.

 

The Handover

To my mind this is a good place to draw the line between Strategic Marketing and Tactics. I believe that a lot of what marketers do after the Messaging is defined is more tactical in nature – what content do you create to convey the messaging – today blogs, articles, whitepapers, video and many more types of content options are available each with its own place. What channels do you use to propagate this content is another tactical selection from among social media, ads – digital and real world, PR and so on. This principle holds true for the website, collateral, social media, emails and all other communication mechanisms you use as well. Consistent messaging is critical to prevent confusion and hence distraction but that apart many of the specific choices are dictated more by day-to-day considerations that a broad over-all strategic imperative. What do you think – is this the place where strategy morphs into tactics? Or do you perhaps believe making such a distinction is unnecessary?

Prospecting for Contact Gold

An ancient Chinese saying goes that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. While it is unlikely that Lau Tzu was thinking of Lead Generation when he said that in the best traditions of timeless wisdom it leaves us free to draw from it what we will. I look at this to mean that in the long sales process a considered first step is of critical importance to ensure success. Especially in B2B sales that first step being the creation of a prospect list of-course. Whether you call it a contact list, a prospect base or a database its quality will ultimately determine how effective your contact efforts are. You want a database populated with names, contact and all other relevant information of decision makers and other influencers from your target organisations and here are a few rich seams that can be mined for these nuggets of information.
1. Company Website: Once you have identified the organisation you wish to target, the first port of call is its website – obvious I know but you would be surprised how many “contact discovery” efforts ignore this basic first step. The “Management” tab on the website offers up a complete list of the officers for you to pick those most likely to be receptive to your specific message.
2. LinkedIn: The inevitable next place to look in this age of social selling. There’s been enough and more written about the search capabilities within LinkedIn – I will just add that I have found LinkedIn most valuable in seeking information about middle-level contacts and perhaps not always so when looking for the “C” level contacts. These mid-level managers are the people not usually represented on the company website or other such sources. The well-known capabilities of LinkedIn to search for an extended network of connections allows an almost organic growth in the contact list once the first few contacts are unearthed.
3. I have personally found events a great source to mine for contacts and information. The list of “speakers” has double value – not only can you get information about the speaker (name, title, role in the organisation) but also their specific area of expertise.
4. Company Publications: This is a great place to look for people in your target companies with very specific areas of interest. Given the emphasis on Content Marketing, most companies have an abundance of publications in the public domain like Papers, articles, technical papers & filings, blogs and the like and these will almost always be credited to specific individuals. If their area of expertise coincides with yours then an obvious match-making opportunity exists with a ready-made opening line to go with it.
5.  Other social media channels: In building a contact list LinkedIn is no. 1 to no. 10 in the top 10 social networks to consider but there are other channels also that can be useful on occasion most notably Twitter. Looking down the list of people who follow your target company’s official Twitter handle or are listed as contributors to the Twitter feed could throw up some names worth researching and adding to the contact database.
6. Something I have found useful sometimes is “News” from your target companies especially about things like product releases. Such news is often accompanied by quotes from the officers directly connected to the product line – useful from the point of view of being able to pin down a name as well as a likely area of interest.
While these are great places to look for names of decision makers in your target companies that’s just the first step (there’s that first step again) – there is a lot of good practice associated with keeping the database accurate, fresh, updated and, well alive but let’s leave that for another day. For now, let me end by asking what do you think of this list? Are there any other sources not listed here that you have mined productively while building a prospect list?