One clear side effect of the fast-changing B2B buyer journey is that it’s now much more challenging to connect with sales prospects and convert new business leads. With more stakeholders involved and an overall longer, more convoluted buyer journey, most marketers find themselves unable to consistently deliver the right quantity and quality of potential customers.
But while almost two-thirds of businesses say generating leads is their biggest challenge, recent trends and stats reveal what high-performing marketers do differently, shedding some much-needed light on the best practices and tactics that actually generate solid results.
In this two-part series, we’ll take a look at 10 effective top-of-funnel marketing ideas based on the latest research on best-in-class B2B marketers in Australia. We compiled these tactics using findings from Green Hat’s Australian B2B marketing survey, along with stats from other sources, so that you’ll learn proven lead generation approaches backed by actual data.
In a nutshell, here are 10 things you need to do to keep up with top-performing B2B marketers:
- Document your marketing strategy the right way
- Work with TIDY marketing data
- Meet prospects where they actually are
- Focus on conversations, not just content
- Don’t do what everyone else is doing, unless…
- Always be selling the next step
- Help prospects find and use information faster
- Bake CX into your marketing DNA
- Separate the signal from the noise in your metrics
- Align, by all means, align
The first five of these pipeline growth strategies cover prospecting, and that’s going to be the main focus for today’s post.
Document your strategy the right way
According to Green Hat’s 2018 study, top-performing marketers in Australia are “significantly more likely” to document their strategy for customer experience, lead generation, and sales/marketing alignment compared to other marketers.
Coschedule also finds that marketers who document their strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t, while marketers with a documented process are 466% more likely to be successful than those without a documented process.
It’s clear that a written, well-defined strategy is what separates great marketers from the not-so-exceptional ones. That’s because documenting your marketing strategy forces you to outline the specific steps to achieve a result, and it provides a clear way to communicate what needs to be done.
Here’s a quick rundown of how you can start documenting your lead generation strategy (as outlined by branding company Marketing MO):
- List your channels
- Define the buying process
- Fill in the decision-making details at each step
- Check your assumptions with actual data
- Identify what the prospect needs to move forward at each step
- Choose the right metrics to gauge success
- Set conversion benchmarks for each step
Work with TIDY marketing data
Data compiled by SnapApp show that up to 50% of a typical marketing database is useless due to invalid records. In addition, poor marketing data can cost companies at least 12% of revenues as a result of misaligned targeting and lower sales productivity.
That’s why almost 9 in 10 B2B marketers consider data quality as a major driver of revenue and growth. That’s according to a report cited by Dun & Bradstreet which also finds that only half of B2B marketers feel confident about their data.
In the age of data science and big data, marketers can learn a thing or two about data scrubbing from data scientists and statisticians who spend more than 80% of their time cleaning data. Data scientists follow a concept called “tidy” data, which involves making sure their datasets meet all of the following four conditions:
- Each variable (characteristic) you measure should be in one column (field).
- Each different observation should be in a different row (record).
- There should be one table for each “kind” of variable.
- If you have multiple tables, they should include a column that allows them to be linked.
Keeping your data in a tidy format makes it easier to clean and maintain, as well as simplifies analysis and eliminates barriers/silos.
Meet prospects where they actually are
It’s hardly news that prospects interact with a vendor via multiple channels throughout their buying journey. The challenge is to uncover which channels tend to have the biggest impact on engagement and conversion.
According to Bizible’s State of Pipeline Marketing report, high-performing marketers rely on almost a dozen different channels to engage prospects—with the top three being word-of-mouth, SEO, and content marketing.
Additionally, Content Marketing Institute says that 79% of B2B marketers consider email as the most effective channel for demand generation. MarketingCharts also points out that events help generate the most leads, while case studies remain the best content type for accelerating the purchase process.
With so many marketing channels to choose from, it can be daunting to decide which ones to prioritize. Here’s what your channel selection process should look like:
- Stick to what you must have, not what’s nice to have
- Get each stakeholder’s buy-in first
- Do your due diligence with independent sources
- Use an objective, transparent method for evaluation
- Know the specific outcomes and assign KPIs
Focus on conversations, not just content
Another key finding from the Green Hat study is that best-in-class B2B marketers in Australia are now refocusing their efforts toward sparking conversations, instead of only publishing content.
As leads constantly find themselves having to sift through page upon page of information to find what they’re looking for, content fatigue can stall a prospect’s movement along the purchase process.
That’s why top-performing marketers are doing their best to rise above their peers by embracing new ways to engage their audience. Content Marketing Institute says that 46% of B2B marketers now rely on interactive content to increase engagement. Marketers are also experimenting with other buyer engagement formats such as videos (66%), thought leadership (65%), and infographics (59%).
As Michelle Gautrin of Adobe puts it: “conversation is king; content is just something to talk about.” The digital transformation happening in marketing has given us a way to listen and keep track of what prospects and customers are saying about us in real-time so that we can respond accordingly:
- Tap into conversations happening about your brand through social listening and online monitoring tools
- Join in on these relevant conversations and make sure to stay on point
- Turn these conversations into conversions by moving leads forward
Don’t do what everyone else is doing, unless…
Depending on which sources you consult, you’ll find that experts tend to disagree on a lot of crucial items that marketers decide on, like which things to increase their budget/spending on or which activities to prioritize or disregard.
For example, an article from MarketingCharts points the wide variations in such findings as the top B2B lead source (one study says it’s SEO, while another cites email). Of course, these discrepancies can probably be explained by sampling differences or something else entirely.
The main idea is that you don’t have to do what other marketers are doing unless it’s also what your own data and metrics are saying. When it comes to shaping strategy, it’s going to be your own results which will serve as your best guide.
That’s what top-performing marketers do. Green Hat mentions that best-in-class marketers tend to follow their own data-driven strategies for each of the three key activities that impact lead generation effectiveness:
- Understanding the marketing audience
- Focusing on pipeline outcomes
- Adopting marketing technology
We’ve taken a look at five sales prospecting strategies that top-performing B2B marketers in Australia tend to follow. In the next blog entry for this two-part series, we’re going to study what highly effective marketers do to convert new business leads.