B2B sales strategies have evolved considerably over the years. The rise of startup-culture and digital evolution reshaped the demographic landscape of B2B and affected the “how, where and why” of purchasing. Experience has taken the center stage in the spectacle that is the customer journey. So, it’s about time to think about B2B lead generation ideas that not only produce reliable prospects but also create positive online experiences.
It’s not easy.
Yes, the new experience economy presents a few online business challenges BUT it also hides an array of opportunities to differentiate and innovate. That is doubly true for small(er) businesses that can’t compete with corporate resources as great experiences do not necessarily depend on large budgets.
To stir you in the right direction, we have compiled a list of B2B lead generation ideas that can make all the difference in times when people are short on time but hungry for experiences.
Though remember, there is no single best way to generate leads. All you can do is identify key approaches and create a combination that works for your business.
Account-Based Marketing is not the newest trend in B2B lead generation strategies on the market. However, today, only a few businesses leverage the strengths of this approach in their B2B digital marketing and sales efforts.
So, what is it all about?
ABM is an alternative lead gen strategy which focuses your B2B business resources on a very specifically defined group of targets within a market and uses a more personalized approach designed to resonate with each individual account.
In other words, it’s all about flipping the traditional sales funnel upside down. Instead of spreading your nets far and wide and ending up with a few. You start with those very specific few accounts and leverage their success to influence a wider audience. Hence the name – Account-based marketing.
The strategy follows the idea that gaining more leads doesn’t necessarily mean more conversions and higher ROI. Instead, it highlights concentrating the majority of your resources on cleary defined highest-quality leads, fostering your relationship with them and turning them into brand ambassadors.
- 85% of surveyed marketers measuring their ROI claimed their ABM efforts outperformed some of the other marketing initiatives. 50% of said the difference was significant. (ITSMA, 2014)
- 84%, 74% and 69% percent of marketers report seeing improvements in reputation, relationships, and revenue, respectively. (ITSMA & ABM Leadership Alliance, 2017)
- Businesses that have been utilizing ABM for at least one year have observed a 10% increase in revenue while 19% have seen over 30% growth in revenue (DemandBase, 2015)
- 27% of marketers who used ABM reported over 50% engagement increase with their C-level targets and 9% reported over 100% increase (SeriousDecisions, 2017)
- 22% of marketers saw a 50% positive difference in closed deals from qualified prospects (SeriousDecisions, 2017)
Why is it important?
In 2015, Shmidt, Adamson, and Bird wrote in an article for Harvard Business Review that business decision making has become harder as most decisions today rely on the approval of a group rather than an individual. In fact, B2B buyers found making group decisions difficult twice more often than making individual decisions.
Further, they pointed out that on B2B customers have usually gone through 37% of the conversion process by the time they are in the decisive solution-definition stage. Worse, they have usually completed 57% of the customer journey before they engage with the sales team rep.
So, if you are not taking into account the disconnection that is likely to occur among key stakeholders, you are losing business without even realizing it.
How to help key decision-makers and stakeholders in your target companies to reach consensus? Well, here is where ABM strategies come to play.
The best tactic for limiting disconnection without having direct access to the decision-makers is to find an advocate inside the customer business. Often referred to as “mobilizer,” this kind of person is passionate about sharing insights with his or her colleagues and can bring key decision makers together.
The HBR article also mentions that according to a CEB survey over half of the people are willing to buy a product or service are not willing to advocate and promote it publicly.
Brand advocates are often inhibited by risks that usually come hand in hand with fighting for change and inspiring consensus:
- Losing credibility and respect for making a bad purchase
- Losing the ability to attract support for future projects if they back an unwise decision
The larger the buyer group the bigger the fear.
So, while the decision to buy is motivated by business values, the decision to advocate requires a significantly more personal appeal. According to the HBR:
“In studying what inspires mobilizers, we found that factors such as whether a solution could advance a person’s career or help him be seen as a better leader were five times as potent as the offering’s “business value”—things like superior product features, likely impact on business outcomes, or return on investment.”
Personalization is at the center of the experience economy. However, it is important to personalize to create consensus among stakeholders. CEO, CIO, and CMO will have different priorities which can seem, at times, contradictory. Account-based marketing approach helps you create consensus-focused specific content and marketing materials.
Emphasizing organizational as well as personal stakes in your content makes it easier and more appealing to advocate your product or service.
- Search for and identify selected companies (or accounts) you wish to target using ABM
- Find out who are the influencers and decision-makers.
- Reach out to them using a highly personalized approach.
- Close the deal to & into ambassadors for your product or service.
The first idea was all about dialing down your focus from many to few and providing them with a more personalized experience. If you read the stats carefully, the account-based approach also called attention to, among other things, the power of reputation and its impacts on revenue.
And so, we are here, talking about 3rd-party review sites.
While in B2C the effect of 3rd-party reviews is very obvious, B2B investments require a more complex sales process and the role of reviews is not always immediately visible. Hence, many businesses still fail to leverage their database of satisfied customers or settle for on-page testimonials.
However, 3rd-party reviews are an extremely important part of the B2B purchasing process.
According to a 2018 survey by TrustRadius (How Reviews Influence Economic Buyers & Buying Committees), incredible 90% of buyers who were part of a decision-making committee said reviews influenced other stakeholders in the group as well. Only 10% of the asked were not sure.
Another survey from TrustRadius discovered that:
- On average, people use five different sources of information;
- For a few key selection criteria, buying companies do not consider the sellers to be the right source of information;
- Reviews ranked higher than analyst reports, forums, media coverage, and case studies.
Furthermore, unlike in B2C, reviews don’t play a singular part at the purchase point. In fact, B2B buyers use reviews in multiple stages of their journey including discovery, evaluation, and selection:
The saddest part is you are probably sitting on an arsenal of satisfied customers who would be willing to provide a review, work on a case study or serve as a customer reference. If only you asked them!
All in all, 3rd-party reviews remove the possible point of friction and frustration by giving your potential clients another source of information; a source that is not created by you and hence is viewed as more objective and trustworthy.
Plus, if you decide to use account-based approach to your marketing, you are likely to build better relationships with and experiences for your customers increasing the likeliness of them providing you a needed review.
- Create your profile on influential industry review sites
- Encourage your best clients to review your product or service
- Identify customer profiles who would be willing to do more
If you asked B2B marketers or business owners themselves about their favorite strategy, social media is certainly not on the list.
Why so unpopular?
Well, it’s harder to get just right. Social media can seduce you into informality so far, it might seem unprofessional. On the other hand, if you try to be too formal, you are risking boring people out of their minds and being ignored. On social media, it’s imperative to nail the tone and style and keep it consistent.
Also, social media requires constant engagement to, well, get engagement. Who has the time?
And, as if that wasn’t enough, Facebook pretty much suffocated the organic reach of its online pages.
So, what’s the point?
Incredible 75% of surveyed B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives identified social media as an influencing factor for B2B purchase decisions.
Taking the issue to the next level, the same study observed that decision makers with more power are significantly more likely to use social media to influence their purchase decision:
There is little doubt that your social imprint matters as much (if not more) than email marketing or inbound marketing.
The question is: How to make your posts viral without stretching your online advertising budget?
Naturally, before you can do anything about social shares, you need to have a social media strategy in place be it for Facebook, LinkedIn or others.
If that is all set and done, there are two things you can do to explode your social sharing average:
- Employee advocacy
- Client advocacy
The term “Employee advocacy” essentially refers to having your employees share and promote your content on social media. You might argue that it’s not much different from the company sharing its content on the official page…
Well, you will be surprised. Employee advocacy has proven to be quite effective.
- Prospects gained through employee social marketing efforts convert 7 times more frequently than other leads. (The Marketing Advisory Network)
- Content shared by employees reached 561% further than the same content shared on the brand’s official channel. (Generali Global Assitance)
- Sales representatives using social media outsell 78% of their peers. (A Sales Guy & Socially Centered Selling)
- Brand content and messages are shared 24 times more when distributed by employee advocates as supposed to the brand itself (MSL Group)
- 79% of companies surveyed reported more online visibility after implementing an official employee advocacy program. Plus, 65% observed increased brand recognition. (Hinge Research Institute)
Regardless of your social media efforts, at the end of the day, posting nice things about your company on your company profile doesn’t amount to much. When your employees stand by you and promote your services or product, that’s when people really notice.
- Define a clear social media policy; What’s OK to post?; What’s not OK to post?; Rules to follow? (e.g. is it OK to share “behind the scene” material; what is the appropriate way for your employees to respond to criticism; etc.)
- Turn it all into a game! There are plenty of employee advocacy platforms on the market that allows you to make the process fun and competitive using leaderboards and such. Though you can also do it manually e.g., by sharing assigning a different Bitly link to each team and watch which one performs better.
- Share the results with your employees
- Listen to their feedback
- DO NOT force participation. If it doesn’t come naturally, it won’t work
Option number two is to get your prospects and/or customers to do the sharing.
Why should they share your content?
One word: Incentives!
Bryan Harris of Videofruit draws attention to a few excellent examples of viral marketing strategies which leveraged social sharing in order to increase lead generation. He persuasively demonstrates that you can use the power of sharing to grow your reach and get your blog posts, webinars or any other form of content go viral.
One of the examples in his article is the Facebook campaign by I Heart Sweet Life Planners. It was shared impressive 3,483 times. How did they do it?
- They set up a landing page that prompted visitors to sign up and receive a valuable piece of content.
- Once they did sign up, they were offered extra content/materials if they shared the initial offer on their personal profile.
- People did share and it went viral.
It’s the perfect B2B lead magnet as people who are interested in your content are likely to be connected to other professionals from the same field. This is imperative as according to the 2016 report by Demand Gen Report 49% of B2B marketers list their colleagues and peers as a primary source of information, which has grown significantly from the 20% in 2015.
According to the latest stats, the cost of digital advertising seems to be rising five times faster than inflation. So, taking advantage of virality has never been more imperative.
- Create a piece of content/offer attractive to your target audience (free trial, webinar, ebook, etc.) that requires them to submit your preferred contact information be it email address or phone number;
- Identify a way to step up the initial offer and provide sharing incentive (the call to action and incentive must be clear and relevant) to reach more qualified leads;
- Observe and analyze sharing patterns;
- Go viral!
If you want to succeed in the experience economy, you must dive into psychology. Nobody is innocent of purchasing something due to social pressure or for fear of missing out on a shared experience. We have all fell victims to FOMO phenomenon at least once.
FOMO is generally defined as anxiety of missing out on an exciting or interesting deal or event which is more often than not aroused by social media posts. Experience economy wouldn’t be thriving as much without it.
Many marketers believe FOMO is only relevant when it comes to B2C.
They are wrong.
FOMO is versatile, the only difference is that when it comes to B2B clients, it forces you to be more creative with its implementation.
Think of FOMO as an emotional consequence of scarcity.
The modern economy is founded on the idea of scarcity. It influences what, when and for how much we buy. Nobody wants to be left behind.
So, although the B2B purchase process is very different from B2C. B2B decisions are still made by people. And, people are scared of scarcity.
You can leverage the fear of missing out in different ways by creating a scarcity of:
- Product or service (e.g., limited edition, last in stock, free pro-version trial, etc.)
- Spaces (e.g., limited spaces for an offline/online event such as a webinar, etc.)
- Time (e.g., limited time pricing deals such as “Subscribe by May 20 and get 50% off your yearly subscription)
Beware. Buyers are not stupid, so be careful not to taint your reputation by running fake limited offers or otherFOMO calls to action.
- Analyze what kind FOMO-fueled offer is most likely to capture the attention of your target audience in a given stage of a sales funnel (tailor different offers to different stages of buyers journey)
- Use countdown timers or (for physical products) item countdowns (only when relevant and not too often)
- Create the hype well in advance
- Be consistent and deliver on your promises – make sure the promised experience lives up to the built-up expectations! Your FOMO needs to be followed by satisfied buzz otherwise it won’t work next time.
Alice did it and she discovered a whole new world.
So can you.
One of the best ways to generate leads in the experience economy is to allow website visitors to become active participants in their customer journey.
The reasons for that are several. Interactive experiences:
- help you “attack” two fronts at once. You are able to provide appealing experience while gathering important analytics that can serve to qualify your leads as well as improve your sales funnel.
- enable 2-way communication and voluntary action giving your leads the opportunity to engage voluntarily – not by force (e.g. instead of forcing people to give you an email with a wall-block form)
- save time and attention as they deliver what the customers want without forcing them to waste time browsing.
- personalize approach by letting leads walk down a self-selected marketing/sales funnel and bring the information to them rather than making them browse your site
- 91% of B2B buyers expressed they prefer interactive/visual content to static content (Demand Gen Report)
- Interactive content generates 2x more conversions than passive content. (Kapost)
- 88% of marketers claim interactive content helps them stand out from the competition (BusinesstoCommunity)
- 93% of marketers said interactive content is an effective way to help educate buyers (Inc)
- 79% of marketers observed that a combination of interactive content with other types of content marketing strategies increases message retention (Content Marketing Institute & Ion Interactive)
According to a study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute & Ion Interactive quizzes, games, interactive images/infographics and assessments are best for the top of the funnel; calculators, interactive ebooks and lookbooks for the middle of the funnel; and configurators for the bottom of the funnel.
And yes, interactive content does produce good results.
All of these tactics short on the ability to engage your prospects emotionally on a more personal level. As we demonstrated above when discussing AMB, connecting on a personal level and sparking a strong emotional response is what turns leads into passionate advocates.
The secret is going from interaction to conversation.
A conversational user interface allows you to take any piece of the interactive content mentioned above and give it personality.
Although based on chatbot-driven conversation, conversational UI doesn’t necessarily have to rely on artificial intelligence as AI still has a long way to go.
Conversational interfaces can leverage the good old principle of “choose your own adventure” used in the first video games. Avoiding the troubles with AI, this concept gives your prospects the power to choose their journey and determine the outcome of the interaction.
So, instead of having leads search your site for a quiz, quote calculator, or an ebook, you can have your chatbot deliver this content to them. Better yet, you can use the conversation to qualify your lead in an unobtrusive, friendly manner.
For example, when a prospect arrives at your website searching for an ebook instead of a block wall bluntly demanding information, it will be greeted by chatbot with a persona that captures the personality of your brand. The chatbot will start with “Hi!” a short introduction and a friendly chit-chat before proceeding to ask what the visitor would like to do.
- Option 1: Learn more about the product
- Option 2: Download Ebook
The simple act of giving your prospects a choice gives them a sense of control. And, since they chose to download the ebook, they don’t feel forced to give out their contact information.
For instance, when you visit Landbot homepage, you are greeted by our little bot that does exactly that! You can either learn more about us or start creating your first conversational bot. Whatever, the choice, you are the maker of your journey.
This entire interaction takes a few seconds saving website visitors time they would have otherwise spent browsing your site or waiting for an email response or for one of your representatives to be available.
Plus, a well-designed chatbot can connect and entertain creating an experience that’s easy to remember.
Remember, even though the B2B marketing landscape has changed, the goals remain the same:
- Gain more quality leads for your business;
- Close more sales;
- Achieve higher ROI.
The only difference is, you need to start considering the experience your potential customers encounter during these stages of acquisition.
So, while there are plenty of B2B lead generation ideas in the endless abyss of search engine database, to battle on the grounds of the Experience Economy you need to turn your attention to those taking emotions into account.
After all, business decisions are taken by people.
There is no single best way to generate deals, there is just a wide collection of experiences you can make work to your advantage.