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Lead Generation

In a recent study of B2B demand generation practices conducted by Software Advice, social media was among the most popular marketing channels, and a top spending priority for next year, despite receiving low marks for both quality and volume of leads it generates. Social media was the 3rd worse in terms of quantity of leads it produced, and in the bottom half in terms of lead quality.

Maybe the reason that almost 90% of the survey’s 155 respondents use social media is the low cost. Non-ad social media was voted the cheapest of 14 marketing channels by study respondents. It’s easy to increase spend on something that is perceived as nearly free. Over half of companies plan to increase budget for social media marketing next year.

Of course, social media isn’t about leads at all.  It’s about creating conversations, engagement, and buzz rather than immediate sales.  But be cautious about whom you target.  1World Online recently reported that 70% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence

What channels generate good leads?

According to the Software Advice study, in-house email marketing was among the top 5 channels for lead quantity and quality. The only other channel to be voted among the top 5 in both categories was trade shows and events, though it was also the most expensive.

Other channels that generated high lead quantity were 3rd party lead originators, search engine ads, and SEO. For Lead Quality, SEO was second after email. Also good for lead quality were telemarketing and 3rd party webinars.

The best offers and content

The study reports that live demos with reps provided the best combination of high lead quantity (ranked 2nd) and quality (ranked 1st). Free trials, according to Software Advice, generated the highest lead quantity, and were 3rd in terms of lead quality. Despite the high rankings, free trials were among the three least-used offers.

Complete study results are available here.

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This article is by Guest Blogger Charlie Born

Are you generating leads and finding that the buyers who contact you are already far into their decision process, having already identified you as ‘1 of 3’ top but very similar vendors?  To prevent the final selection round from becoming a feature-function-price competition and create stronger differentiation, you may need to engage earlier in the Buyers’ Journey.   This early demand creation (in contrast to lead generation) requires changing what is in your buyers’ mind, and not what is in your marketing database. That means influencing the early learning process with the right information, presented at the right time, via the right mediums to help decision makers learn about you before they contact you as a prospect.

Information Must-HavesIt is not a surprise that the internet, social networks and online communities are key sources that potential buyers use to search for meaningful information during their Buyers’ Journey. These online sources are largely relationship and not broadcast oriented; this means information that stimulates interaction and response is welcomed and encouraged in a ‘community’ setting while obvious marketing spam is most often ignored.  Because of this, information needs to be packaged in buyer friendly content formats that make it attractive, discoverable, consumable and sharable throughout the entire Buyers’ Journey. Think of your information as ‘content as a service”.  Provide interesting whitepapers, webinars, blogs, info-graphics and “info-tainment” to engage your buyers and create demand.  Be sure to point your potential buyers to sources of information other than your own, which often carry greater credibility.

How can you be sure you are helping buyers discover what they want to learn at the right time in their Buyers’ Journey?  Engage directly with the buyers.  Meet with current customers, new customers and lost sales opportunities and focus on some of these concepts during your discussions:

  • Gain an understanding of the customer’s evaluation and buying process by industry and role within the company.
  • Talk to them about what triggered the need for the solution.
  • Ask them what they were looking for and where they went to find answers.
  • Find out who they spoke with directly and who influenced them and how.
  • And most importantly, find out how they evaluated the information.

It’s been my experience that through these meetings you discover how to align your marketing to the buyers’ information needs and to the content formats and outlets that are most effective for an audience. Your analysis of the information that buyers need, and when, where and how they consume it, should inform the process for creating, packaging, and disseminating information and maintaining consistency across communication channels.   That process will likely change your current marketing efforts to emphasize demand creation throughout the Buyer’s Journey, rather than lead generation when that journey is near its end.

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Great discussion last night at the SVAMA event about how B2B marketers can leverage social media to generate leads.  Check out the summary by Kirsty Scott of SD Design.

A few points I thought were esp. interesting, insightful, or controversial.

1. Create LOTS of interesting, relevant content.  But how, given limited resources?  The panelists suggested:

  • One person can generate a lot of content and a lot of buzz – it doesn’t take an army
  • You don’t have to be a professional writer. Just get your ideas across.
  • Give your community a forum for creating content. WD40 fan club is a great example of community-generated content.

2. “The internet is a great medium for experimentation,” Mike Linton.

  • Its easy to try out different tactics, different language, and different social media hubs.  You quickly can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
  • Its easy to overcome resistance inside your company by suggesting, “Let’s just run it as a test.”

3. The community is there. Deal with it.

  • If your company thinks its not “doing social media,” its wrong. Users, customers, and probably employees are talking about you, whether you’re there or not.  Best to join the conversation than to be ignorant. (Sounds like parenting advice!)
  • Communities take on a life of their own. Don’t expect to control or even guide the conversation.  Instead find an employee most like your audience and ask them to participate in the dialogue.
  • Develop a thick skin.  Even within communities you create, someone will find something negative to say, and chance are, it will get disseminated.  Don’t be taken by surprise, and don’t panic.

4. Lead Gen is a process, not an event.

  • Include calls to action – SUBTLE ones – in your content.
  • Give people the opportunity to “self identify” as interested though their actions and responses to many different forms of interactions (Blogs, tweets, webinars, emails, facebook fan clubs, LinkedIn group participation, etc.)
  • Track participation and score interest level based on those interactions.  It takes time and experimentation to find the most promising patterns.

5. Traditional PR is in trouble, and reporting is dead (or at least, in the re-animation ward).

  • If everyone if writing about the latest events, for free, what’s a reporter left to do?
  • PR’s traditional emphasis on providing access to reporters and providing reporters with story no longer provides the value it once did.

Were you there?  Tell us about other great insights from the evening.

Do you agree or are these suggestions off the mark?  Share your B2B Lead Gen experiences via Social Media.

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Social media and B2B lead generation

by Lilia Shirman on October 19, 2009

in Sales 2.0,Sales Tips

Later this week I’ll be moderating Silicon Valley American Marketing Association’s event on Social Media for B2B Lead Generation. The keynote speaker and panel are as well-informed a group on this topic as you’re likely to find: David Meerman Scott,  author of New Rules of Marketing and PR, Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot and author of Inbound Marketing, Mike Linton, former CMO at eBay and before that at Best Buy, and Zack Urlocker from MySQL (now Sun Microsystems).

What would you ask this group about using Social Media to drive a sales pipeline?  Here are some of the questions I’ll have for them:

  1. How do you move from conversation to lead generation within social networking environments, and without angering the people you’ve engaged?
  2. How does a company select the social media hubs that are most important to their business and their audiences?
  3. What constitutes a “qualified lead” in the social media context?
  4. How do you estimate the resources required to create a presence in social mediums?
  5. What can B2B companies learn from BtoC practices?
  6. What’s your advice for the change agents who are advocating greater investment in social media by their companies?
  7. How should resource-strapped start-ups allocate the time and resources for social media?
  8. What are the top three do’s and dont’s for using social media to feed a sales pipeline?

Your turn!  What would you ask?  I’ll post some of the answers to your questions here after the event.

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More ideas on cultivating customer contribution and creating opportunities for interaction by turning traditional marketing into Marketing 2.0

6. In-person events – These are expensive to put on, so why spend the entire time lecturing on information that’s already in your collateral? Third party presenters can be more interesting, but any lecture can get dreary fast. Give attendees lots of time to interact with you and with each other, while you listens and takes notes. Consider a workshop rather than presentation format so that the entire event is interactive.

7.   Trade Shows – This seems like a highly interactive event, but most booth staffers are so focused on doing the demos and spewing the spiel, that the opportunity to listen is lost.  (I adore alliteration.)   To change the mindset, make it clear you’re at the show to interact with and listen to customers, not just to be seen and heard.  Set objectives of specific information you want to gather from booth visitors or people attending your sessions.  Ask a few questions or give a short (5 questions max) survey before handing out the tchachkis, or organize mixers and events that have information gathering as an explicit objective.

If a widely open a conversation seems too much of leap, try these by first letting a small group of customers you know well contribute and participate, then open further when you’re comfortable managing a broader conversation.

Have you tried these or other ways to engage customers in conversations?  Share them in your comment!

Read More
Turning Marketing into Conversations – Part 2
Turning Marketing into Conversations – Part 1

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Companies used to selling products struggle to shift to “solution selling”.   There are lots of obstacles – product-oriented habits,  the never-ending argument of “what’s a solution, anyway?” (more on that in a future post), sales reluctance to adopt new techniques, etc.    Before we put the big strategy and sales kickoff program in place to “transform Sales”, however, lets first look upstream at marketing.

As any sales approach, solution selling starts with customer-relevant content, programs, and ultimately (we hope)  leads.  All supplied by marketing.   In this case, by Solution Marketing.   Understanding how its different from product marketing can pave the way to a smoother transition and solution selling success.

Solutions Marketing is about shifting your perspective and context. A solutions approach to marketing places your offerings within the context of the customers’ broader situation and needs.   It starts with the customer and their desired outcomes, instead of with you and your products. (Note – their objective is NOT to buy a product.)   Focusing on the customer’s broader context means solution marketing can encompass aspects of the customer’s needs that your own product or service may not solve.  The value prop IS the customer’s desired outcome, not your product’s superiority.

Let’s be really clear – “Solution Selling” and “Solution Marketing” are not the same as actually selling and marketing solutions. They are approaches to how your customers become aware of, learn about, interact with, and commit to your business. They don’t require that you actually offer a complete solution – only that you understand the role you play in helping customers achieve their objectives.

Ultimately, solutions marketing must support solution selling. That means giving sales reps and channel partners the knowledge and tools they need to carry the customer-centric view through the entire sales process and beyond.

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