Constructing an Effective B2B Lead Generation Plan

PropelGrowth Blog - Financial Services Marketing

Effective B2B lead generation is a mix of art and science

Having a healthy number of leads is a crucial part of driving revenue. But often B2B marketers are challenged by determining what constitutes a qualified lead. This is often because they’re unclear about where a given prospect is in the buying cycle. The result? Sales wastes their time contacting people that are not yet ready to buy.

To gain greater insight into the lead generation and management process, Salesfusion and Demand Metric conducted a study. The goal was to understand how today’s marketers are handling lead generation – including their techniques, data capturing methods, metrics  and budgeting in this area. Below we’ll explore some highlighted results from the study in detail.

Lead Generation Approaches

The study found that almost all of companies polled (89%) had lead generation processes in place, which demonstrates the vital nature of this function.  But only half consider their processes to be moderately or highly effective. What’s more, 58% of participants say their process doesn’t produce enough leads, revealing that companies still have some work to do in this area.

Research also showed that the three most popular approaches companies are using for lead generation include content marketing, email marketing and tradeshow/event marketing. This was true regardless of variables like company size. The study concluded that if generally companies are using the same approaches, then challenges surrounding lead effectiveness may more be linked to how the approach is executed. For example, a marketing campaign could be executed via any number of ways such as though print (a direct mailer or ad), web (a banner ad or email) or social (twitter or blog posts). For most companies, a combination of these channels is typically most effective.

In terms of content marketing, a few pieces of quality content get more customer engagement than an overabundance of shoddily produced pieces. Always remember that your content should educate your audience. Many companies forget this, and produce promotional material that is undirected, not focused on the buyer needs, and not particularly helpful to the prospect. This type of content is not effective for B2B lead generation.

Data Capture & Storage

Having a proper method in place for capturing leads’ contact and profile information makes it easier for marketing to nurture them along the sales pipeline. According to the study, the most common mechanism companies use to capture leads is an automated web form (73%), while the second most common is manual data entry. But marketers aren’t relying on one method alone for capturing lead data. In fact, 1/3 of respondents reported using three different methods.

Findings also showed nearly half of companies (45%) are using some form of CRM system to house lead data. Storing this information in an automated system, as opposed to excel spreadsheets or other manual means, can help companies make lead nurturing programs more effective. Leveraging CRM can also facilitate the process of deciding which leads are sales-ready and passing them along to the sales team for cultivating (provided the system is properly set up for this).

Metrics

When evaluating the efficacy of a lead management program, companies should not look at the sheer number of leads alone. Perhaps more importantly, they should consider if the leads they have are of good quality. But how can this be determined? The study found that defining specific standards for lead quality may help marketers better understand which leads are ripe for the picking.

For those study participants that reported their lead generation processes produce high or very high quality leads, 74% had moderately or very effective lead quality definitions in place. Having a clear-cut standard for lead quality can ensure that both marketing and sales are on the same page when it comes to knowing which leads are sales-ready, and which might need more nurturing.

Results also demonstrated that there is not one single metric that can determine the performance of the lead generation process. According to the study, 59% of study participants use three or more metrics to track the effectiveness of their efforts. The most common one was number of leads generated.

We believe that quantity of leads is not the best metric to track, especially for financial services companies, because the metric can be deceiving. Marketing could generate a lot of leads that never progress into the pipeline. It’s far better to track the number of qualified leads that get picked up by sales (sales accepted leads) and the leads that turn into qualified sales opportunities. Here is more information on how to develop a strategy to track lead conversion rates.

Budget

To gauge how companies prioritize lead generation efforts, the study looked at how much money they are allocating to this area. On average, companies reported spending 35% of their marketing budgets on lead generation. Interestingly enough, the report also found that organizations with a greater number of quality leads were not paying more to get them. This leads us to believe the companies that are more successful in building up a database of strong leads are accomplishing this through a better marketing strategy.

In terms of budgeting for the current year, most companies (70%) pointed to content marketing as the primary area where they plan to increase spend, while the largest area where they will decrease budgeting (40%) is for tradeshows or event marketing.

Successful B2B Lead Generation

As this study proves, effective lead generation is a combination of art and science. There is not any one magical switch that a marketer can flip to be successful. Instead, they need to assess their own unique circumstances and put into place the proper marketing strategies and technology that can make their B2B lead generation goals a reality.

For more information on how to properly qualify leads, check out our related blog post: Lead Qualification, the Buying Process and Content Marketing

B2B Email Marketing Content That Generates Leads

blog-b2b-email-marketing

Email marketing is so popular among B2B marketers because it provides a cost-effective way of communicating an offer to a large audience. Perhaps more importantly, it delivers an excellent return on investment (ROI).  In fact, according to iContact, for every $1 spent on email marketing, businesses see a $44.25 ROI.

But it’s not enough to just throw together a promotional email and cross your fingers in hopes it gets the job done. Instead you need to define a clear strategy. At a minimum, your strategy should include the following:

  • Target Segment – who are you sending the email to?
  • Buyer Persona – who is the buyer persona, what’s important to them? How can you compose the email to resonate with this persona?
  • Buying Stage – at what stage in the buying cycle is your target segment?
  • Objective – what do you want to achieve with the campaign (e.g., nurture leads, generate subscribers to your newsletter, drum up webinar attendees)?
  • Call to Action – what do you want them to do and how will you get them to do it?
  • Offer – what are you offering to get them to take the desired action?
  • Desired Results – how will you measure results and what constitutes a successful outcome?

Below are some proven tips on how to compose an email that have helped many successful B2B businesses attract qualified leads.

Keep Emails Conversational

When crafting email copy intended to draw in new leads, be aware of your medium and your audience’s time. It’s likely that your recipients receive hundreds of emails per day and are only quickly scanning them before they delete, if they open them at all. So it’s better to leave the more complex analogies for lengthy content, such as whitepapers or articles. Instead, keep your email copy simple, tight and to the point.

It’s best to address your audience in a casual, yet direct tone using straightforward language. Refrain from using your company’s own internal jargon. These technical terms may make perfect sense to you, but ultimately serve to confuse the heck out of prospects. You should, however, utilize the industry jargon of the persona you are targeting. Doing this shows prospective clients that you have experience and know your subject matter. For example, if you’re targeting currency trading executives, the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the British pound sterling is referred to as “cable.” If your email refers to this exchange rate as “dollar/sterling,” it may give the reader a sense that your firm doesn’t understand their business. But always make sure you’re using the jargon correctly.

Also be careful if you are targeting multiple vertical niches in your marketing efforts. Industry jargon can differ amongst different audiences, so ensure you are incorporating these nuances correctly. Instead of sending one blanket email to all your contacts, send out a few different communications, each tailored to fit your different niches. For example, if you’re offering market data products, content targeting currency traders should be different than the content targeting equities traders.

Align Email Content With the Buyer’s Journey

The four stages of a customer’s typical buying cycle include awareness, research, evaluation and commitment. When crafting email copy, as with any marketing content, it’s important to keep these stages in mind. Why? Delivering content that is aligned with your prospect’s buying journey can help you facilitate the buying process and move a sale forward. It’s been proven time and time again that well-crafted email content, backed by a solid content strategy, helps position companies as helpful advisors and trusted experts in their respective industries. Gaining this respect will make prospects feel more comfortable in continuing along the buying journey with your company.

Get Prospects Engaged

If you are targeting new leads in your email communication, then many of your prospects may not even realize they have a business problem yet. Use the opportunity to educate them on industry issues (that your solutions, of course, can address.) But be sure not to push your products at this early stage of the buying cycle. As a financial B2B marketer, attracting new leads is more about helping them identify they have a problem.

A great way of getting your audience engaged with your email content is to pose a relevant question (i.e., “Is your firm prepared to meet new requirements of CFTC Rule 1.73?”) Asking a thought-provoking question puts the ball in the prospect’s court. It can also make the pain points and solutions you describe in your email more real and personal to their situation. From there, you can direct them to an insightful blog post or article that goes into more detail on the topic.

Place the CTA Near the Top

As mentioned above, your customers and prospects do not have a tremendous amount of time to be poring over your marketing emails. In fact, they may elect to abandon your communication before reading it all the way through. That’s why it’s beneficial to make your call to action clear and place it early on in your text—like within the first two to three sentences of the email. This way they don’t have to scroll all the way to the bottom to understand how to move forward.

Incorporate Customer Testimonials

It probably goes without saying, but there’s no better validation of your marketing claims than a glowing customer endorsement. Including a powerful and prominently displayed customer quote in your promotional email is a great way to validate the value of your products and lend credibility to your brand. While a strong customer quote is impressive to prospects at any stage of the buying cycle, it’s probably the most impactful once they are in the process of evaluating potential vendors.

Testimonials can be easily gathered. For example, if you phone a customer to help them with a question and they happen to say some kind words about your company, simply ask if you can formulate the statement into a quote. But always be sure you obtain written approval from the customer prior to publishing anything, and inform them of how and when the testimonial will be used.

Get the Expected Return

Email marketing can be an incredibly effective tool for converting leads if it’s part of a strategic content plan. For maximum results, you need to develop a succinct, on-point messaging strategy that causes your customer and prospects to take notice. Accomplishing this goal is not always easy, but using the tips described above is a good place to start.

For more information on best practices in email marketing, check out the blog 5 Tips for Driving Conversions in B2B Email Marketing.

How To Generate More Opt-ins With Your Email Marketing Campaign

PropelGrowth Blog - Financial Services Marketing
E-mail opt-in for lead generation is not easy, but possible with these tips.
In this age of information overload, it’s certainly not easy to entice people to sign-up for yet another email marketing subscription. In fact, studies show that the average corporate employee receives approximately 105 emails per day. Not only does this overwhelm recipients, but it also makes them more discerning about which companies they allow to send them communications.

B2B marketers therefore need to be more strategic when it comes to enticing customers and prospects to opt-in to their regular emails. Here are some ideas on how to get started.

Request their Presence

Just because someone is a customer doesn’t mean you can automatically start emailing him or her without consent. A better approach is to send these contacts a friendly note requesting that they opt-in to your communications. An impersonal mass mailing is not going to be compelling, so be sure to keep your note as personal as possible, perhaps even mentioning the product they purchased.

You may also want to include an incentive in your email. For instance, you could offer a complimentary white paper or case study download, available exclusively to those who subscribe to your communications. Also, remember to include a link to a designated spot on your website (the homepage typically works best), integrated with your email platform, where people can enroll themselves. This beats having to collect their responses and enter them into your system manually.

Approach Event Attendees

Ever compile an impressive list of conference contacts and say to yourself, “what next?” Amy Guarino, Vice President of Business Development at Marketo Inc. suggests, “One method of approaching these contacts is emailing them a couple of days after an event has ended. Your message should make reference to the conference and include a summary of the key takeaways.” She goes on to say, “This is a great way of capturing their attention while the event is still fresh in their minds,encouraging them to opt-in.”

The takeaway points should be outlined in a separate document that you offer as a download. Once recipients click to view the file, they should be able to click a box that allows them to opt-in to your email communications. Of course, per CAN/SPAM laws, it’s also important to ensure that your emails instruct recipients on how they can opt-out of your communications at any time.

Clean Up

One way to reduce the possibility of your current contacts losing interest is by emailing them periodically to confirm contact details and better understand their email preferences. Pose questions such as, “How frequently would you like to be contacted?” or “What types of content are you interested in receiving? The resulting feedback will give you solid perspective on how, when and why you should be contacting these individuals. As a result, you’ll be able to provide an improved customer experience. It’s also a great opportunity to make sure the contact information you have on file is still up-to-date.

Offer a Free Newsletter

An effective way to both generate new and nurture existing email subscribers is offering them a regular newsletter on an interesting topic. Just be sure that your stories are focused on issues that directly appeal to your target audience. Offering a free e-newsletter is an ideal way of keeping the line of communication open between you and your customers. Additionally, if the content is interesting, it also increases the odds that it will be shared, extending the reach of your marketing message.

Keep them Interested

Capturing the attention of B2B prospects is no easy feat—and getting them to opt-in to your emails is perhaps an even bigger challenge. However, using the tips outlined above, you’ll be able to strategically grow your email  subscriber list in no time at all.

For more information on building an effective content plan that incorporates email marketing, read 5 Tips For Creating a Killer Content Plan.

 

5 Tips for Driving Conversions in B2B Email Marketing

PropelGrowth Blog
The goal of email marketing is lead conversion
Email marketing remains one of the most effective communication vehicles among today’s marketers. In fact, according to the B2B Email Marketing Benchmark Report, 74% of B2B marketers believe that email marketing is critical to their success.

A well-executed email should be visually appealing, educate your target audience on your offer, and drive recipients to action. Here are some tips on creating compelling promotional emails that are sure to convert leads.

Tip#1: Focus on Subject Lines

Often marketers treat subject lines as an afterthought. They put a lot of effort into items like the body text and design layout—but wait until the last minute to slap a subject line on the email as it’s going out the door.

Remember that the subject line is what draws your prospect into reading your email. It’s also what makes them decide to delete without opening. So it’s worth spending some extra time getting it right. Subject lines should be customer-centric and clearly outline your offer in as few words as possible—particularly since many recipients will be viewing your communication on mobile devices.

Tip #2: Set Expectations

When emailing to a new list, don’t leave your recipients in the dark. In your initial email contact, inform them about how often they will hear from you and what kind of content they can expect to receive. Once you’ve established these expectations, be consistent about following through. Also, be sure to make the opt-in/ opt-out process as easy and obvious as possible.

Tip #3: Keep it Simple

When it comes to email layout, simplicity can be powerful. Don’t overwhelm your audience with drawn-out paragraphs or competing design elements. Instead, keep text and layout tight with high emphasis on your call-to-action button.

Also, don’t overload your message with too many images. Studies show that emails containing a high text to image ratio ultimately perform better. Lastly, keep in mind that video thumbnails within emails can receive double to triple the number of clicks compared to text links.

Tip #4: Express Urgency

If possible, your email should convey the reasons why it’s critical for your audience to act on your offer right away. A great way to go about this is posing a compelling question on a pressing issue (i.e. “Are you prepared to meet new financial regulations?”).

Offering time sensitive promotions can also be a useful tactic for creating urgency in customers’ minds. Opt-in incentives such as free trials offer that have an expiration tag could drive recipients to action faster.

Tip#5: Personalize Your Message

Your prospects are overloaded with mountains of spam and other non-useful communications each day. Ensure that your email doesn’t get lost in the shuffle by making your message relevant and tailored to your audience’s interests. This approach will help keep your recipients engaged with your content.

Additionally, research indicates that emails coming from an individual person in your company, rather than a generic company address deliver better open rates.

Keys to Converting Leads

Email marketing can be a highly effective way of generating awareness of your brand, sharing your content, and building relationships with your customers. To maximize the success of this effort, pay close attention to the way you are delivering your offer. Keep text direct and to the point. Use a layout that is clutter-free and clearly emphasizes the call-to-action. Using the tips listed above, you can shape an effective email strategy that will help you convert more qualified leads in no time.

For more information on how to create a strategic content plan that incorporates effective use of email marketing, see “Content Strategy: 7 Ways to Feed the Content Beast.”

PropelGrowth B2B Marketing [r]Evolution Video


Creating powerful and relevant content is hard work

As just about anyone involved in content marketing will tell you, creating relevant content is challenging. Generating great content is downright difficult. It requires a lot of thought and attention to the dynamics of a particular topic. With that in mind, we marketers can be sure of one thing — businesspeople love statistics and quotations; they are the pixie dust of many white papers and research reports. Compelling stats and quotes have a magical effect on this audience – they get attention. Creating a piece of content that is front-to-back stats and quotes can be like serving up a sumptuous feast prepared by Emeril Lagasse.

A compelling social media video inspired us

Earlier this year, Candyce and I were introduced to one of Erik Qualman’s inspiring Socialnomics videos at the Social Markets website. As we watched the video, we were amazed and amused by the compelling social media stats that animated across the screen to Fatboy Slim’s “Right Here, Right Now”.  This video was so evocative that we decided to use it to open up our session on social media at the National Introducing Brokers Association (NIBA) Conference in April 2011. You should have seen the faces on the audience as they sat with rapt attention! Every once in a while there would be a quick intake of breath or chuckle to indicate surprise or amusement. The video was a hit and made a wonderful “waker-upper” for a mid-afternoon session. It brought the audience on board with us and prepared them for the presentation and panel discussion that followed.

There were no videos on B2B marketing stats

In my search for other similar videos, I came across an interesting one on the emergence of mobile media, but nothing that covered business to business marketing. It was a foregone conclusion that I wasn’t going to find anything made for the Capital Markets. So when Candyce and I were asked to participate at the NIBA Conference in Chicago, we knew that we’d need another video to open up our session on inbound marketing (at 3:45 in the afternoon, I might add). Having been inspired by the Socialnomics video, we agreed that we needed to create a video of our own that would add impact to our session as well as fuel PropelGrowth’s marketing efforts. We needed a video that would help tell one of our stories while adding value to the industry. It also made sense to begin creating video content, since in our talk, we cited YouTube as the second largest search engine in the world.

Making the case for content marketing

Building on some of the issues we covered in the April NIBA presentation, we agreed that we needed to tell a story beginning with reasons why customers have taken control of their buying process and ending with a compelling case for content marketing. Our goal was to leave the viewer with a sense of, “Oh crap, I need content and I need it now!” We also wanted to provide advocates for PropelGrowth services with content that would help them to convince other decision makers within their organizations.

Telling the story

We began by compiling more stats and quotes than we would ever need. Once done, Candyce suggested that we print them out, cut them into individual strips and lay them out to “storyboard” our content. I thought she was nuts, but this helped tremendously as we were able to interactively move data around, find the holes in our story, and “trim the fat.” We had to make sure that we could transition smoothly from one topic to another while keeping it relevant to our main audience. Once we were satisfied with the result, it was up to me to fire up After Effects and start animating.

Creating the sizzle

Donning my Art Director hat, I began with establishing a typographic style, which in this case could be a little looser than normal, yet not over-the-top. I started by designing the text with an eye on making sure it was consistently legible without being monotonous. Every little element that can keep the audience interested is helpful. From there, I began conceiving visuals to help expand the look and feel of the video. What I wanted to achieve was a bit of intermittent sizzle, then build to a crescendo and the all-powerful call to action.

Composing the music

For the soundtrack, we initially inserted music as a placeholder because there was no time for me to compose something original in time for the NIBA meeting (I also had to get the Powerpoint presentation done). We knew we wanted an original soundtrack to work in harmony (no pun intended) with the motion graphics.

In my past professional life, I created video presentations for High-Def, desktop and web video. It was exciting to bring these parts of my background to bear here, fulfilling our “use every part of the buffalo” mandate.

Senior executives like video

PropelGrowth is in the business of content marketing and we wanted to show our clients and prospects that we are capable of developing more than just written content and live events. We also wanted to meet a perceived need in the industry for innovative B2B subject matter. Video is growing steadily as a vital piece of content marketing strategy. According to a 2010 Cisco report, internet video traffic is expected to increase from 30% to 90% by 2014. Forbes Insight found that “59% of senior executives prefer to watch video instead of reading text, if both are available on the same page. 80% of executives are watching more online video today than they were a year ago.”

Oh yeah…

…In case you have an “oh crap, I need content, and I need it now” moment after watching the video, give us a call. We can help.  +1 212.738.9445 and select option 2 for sales.

Stats used in the video

If you’re interested, here are the sources for all the stats we used in the video:

83% of people report that they no longer trust corporate or product advertising
Edelman Trust Barometer

70% do trust recommendations from users online
Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey (2009)

“People are more likely to engage with and share content surfaced by people they trust.”
— Malorie Lucich, Facebook Spokesperson

In May 2011, Google exceeded 1 billion unique visitors.
comScore Data Mine

There are more social media accounts than people on earth:
Earth population = 6.93 billion
Social media accounts = 10 billion
In-Stat (by way of John Rich of Studiocom)

Time to reach 20 million users:
Facebook = 1152 days
Twitter = 1035 days
Google+ = 24 days
Leon Håland

In 2010 more than 66% of all US Internet users were using social media.
Nielsen

Social media accounted for 22.5% of all time spent on the internet in 2010
Nielsen

The average hours spent per user grew 30% over 2009
Nielsen

If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world
Facebook

Unique visitors to Twitter increased 959% year over year in 2009
Nielsen

Social media is the number one activity on the Internet – exceeding pornography
Huffington Post

If the pen is mightier than the sword…
… then Facebook and Twitter are mightier than the governments of…
• Tunisia
• Egypt
• Bahrain
• Yemen
— Phil Donaldson, Director of Marketing, PropelGrowth

“Hedge fund bets $40M that Twitter can predict the stock market”
Huffington Post

92% of B2B buyers use online resources to research products and services
Enquiro

… 90% of senior executives start their path to purchase with informal online research around business problems online
— DemandGen Report

Most buying cycles are 70-80% complete BEFORE companies are willing to engage with sales people
—SiriusDecisions

“Content is the fuel that drives demand.”
— Joe Chernov, Vice President of Content Marketing, Eloqua

Publishing compelling content builds credibility
— Ardath Albee, Author, Emarketing Strategies For The Complex Sale

Today, there are more than 200 M blogs
China Internet Information Center, Technorati, Wikipedia

72% of companies who blog weekly have acquired customers through their blog
HubSpot

Average cost per lead:
• Outbound channels – $373
• Inbound channels – $143
HubSpot

54% of B2B companies increased inbound marketing budgets in 2011
HubSpot

Average budgets on blogs and social media increased from 9% in 2009 to 17% in 2011
HubSpot

“Instead of focusing on market share, focus on mindshare.”
— Candyce Edelen, CEO, Propelgrowth