B2B Lead Generation Strategies
How Marketing and Sales Can Work Together
By Danny Wong
When your sales and marketing departments work in their own dedicated silos, you run the risk of stunting your B2B lead generation strategies.
Traditionally, sales and marketing are two separate disciplines, and they didn't generally get along well. Today we know that these departments are extensions of each other. Purchasing decisions are often made prior to contacting a salesperson, which means that it starts with marketers guiding the customer journey through the sales funnel.
Increasingly, purchasing decisions are made by millennials, technology natives who approach buying for their companies as they would their own personal buying research. They expect the brands they work with to offer convenient resources, and they insist that each channel in the customer journey brings them the same high-level experience.
For your B2B lead generation ideas to work well, sales and marketing need to share information seamlessly. This can be done several ways.
There are software solutions, such as your preferred CRM platform, that make it easier for each department to access the same customer information across the board. That is an important start.
Of course, it's best if these two departments have a direct working relationship because the information that sales holds can help marketing create stronger campaigns.
For sales, the data and information that marketing has gleaned about personas and your brand’s audience can help convert leads at a much higher rate.
For more actionable advice on how to get both teams to partner seamlessly, here are four ways marrying the disciplines of marketing and sales can work well.
1. How to work together to build high ROI email campaigns
Email remains one of the best ways for sales and marketing teams to generate leads. There are a lot of channels to invest in, but email should be high on your list because it provides structure you can automate to nurture and convert buyers.
Build your email lists based on people who opt in and ask to receive your messages. This gives you a warm contact — a marketing qualified lead, or MQL — right away because, at the very least, every person receiving an email has expressed interest in something about your company or service. Sales is looking for sales accepted leads, or SALs. This is where the sales department takes over in the customer journey. However, it needs to be a smooth transition, and your communications on all levels need to align.
Email marketing campaigns offer a multitude of ways to reach current, prospective, and previous customers. Ideally, your marketing department will continue to deploy specific campaigns that reach out to your clients even after they convert. Collaboration between sales and marketing is required so that both departments do not overwhelm individuals with repetitive offers or excessive communication.
2. How to create a strategy to clearly define your leads
What becomes slightly more complicated is that there is no set way to define leads. The way you segment your leads depends on your business model, messaging, and overall marketing and sales strategies. Since the way you categorize these customers is so specific to your business, it's ideal for marketing and sales departments to work together to define them. This minimizes confusion and heads off the possibility that the two departments will ineffectively overlap when reaching out to the same client.
For most companies, the six stages of the lead journey are:
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL). The MQL stage is where the journey begins. This is where your marketing department sets out to qualify leads, then decides which campaign will work best and whether the prospective customer can convert to an SAL. This is your widest net. You'll garner traffic from leads who are not in your target audience here.
Sales Accepted Leads (SAL). Your sales department works with the MQL list to choose the next phase of the journey: SALs. These leads are qualified according to parameters set by your team, which may include company size, position, authority, and any indications regarding their budget. This step is important because it's time-intensive to move each prospect through the remaining portion of the sales funnel.
The Value Proposition Stage. This stage of the journey is primarily conducted by sales, though your marketing department may also find opportunities to work with the audience in a value proposition capacity. This is another reason it's better to have sales and marketing work together, so both departments understand and convey the right messaging at all stages. This is when you take a lead and qualify what value you can offer to fill their needs, as well as how your company can do that better than your competition.
The Demonstration Phase. Traditionally, the demonstration phase is as it sounds: a chance to show the prospect the inner workings of your product or service. It may start with a discovery call. In some cases, this phase may simply include personal communication between the prospect and your sales team to answer questions and explain how your service addresses their problems or solves a pain point for their business.
The Negotiation Stage. The negotiation phase boils down to a proposal for the types of service you offer. It may include various choices in service plans. This is also the stage in which you can upsell other solutions to increase contract value.
Conversion. Conversion is the ultimate goal. This is where your lead becomes a committed and paying customer.
Each of these stages in the journey requires specific messaging. Since your approach to communication exists on many channels, you have the opportunity to connect with your leads throughout their journey in both formal and informal ways. Your social media strategy, for instance, should include a nuanced approach to communicating a consistent message that reaches across the spectrum in the lead generation journey. Often, returning customers and those who have not yet become MQLs may find your brand on social media.
3. How to implement a clear and consistent social media strategy to facilitate more conversions
Social media is becoming increasingly important in B2B lead generation and nurturing. In past years, B2B marketing and sales operated outside of the strategies employed by B2C companies. Now, many of the contacts who lead purchasing for their companies are far more active on social media. These professionals span generations, though you'll find many more millennials in these positions today than in previous years. They also stumble upon information while they surf the web, both personally and professionally, and then research individual vendors thoroughly before pursuing contact. This buyer persona is exactly the target you'll capture with a consistent social media strategy.
Your social media strategy starts once you determine which platforms suit your business best. Are your customers active on Twitter or Instagram, or are your social channels primarily used to drive people to your blog? Remember, too, that your leads spend several hours a day on social media. Whether they are online during work hours or not, getting your message to them on social channels means it will stick in their minds when they initiate a search for a service like yours to benefit their employer.
Marketing generally handles the majority of your company’s social media content creation. Of course, this messaging can be enhanced through information gathered from the sales team on your current and past customer behaviours and preferences.
4. How to build brand awareness through trade shows
Trade shows offer an excellent way to connect with clients, especially in a B2B sales dynamic. This gives your team the opportunity to speak to a more qualified audience, increase your visibility, build partnerships with third-party associates, widen the net, and seal your authority in the industry.
Participating in a trade show is an investment, but it can be ROI positive. During the trade show itself, the sales department covers most of the lead qualification. In fact, trade shows are often only attended by the sales team and executives, many who work in a higher sales capacity.
On the surface, it may appear that only your sales team needs to be concerned with the activities at a trade show. That said, there is an opportunity for marketing to contribute, too. Trade show preparations should start months in advance, and your marketing department can help reach out to contacts to let them know your team’s schedule at the show. Marketing can also fine-tune the messaging and help with your overall trade show strategy, booth design, and follow-up after the event has ended to keep conversations with leads ongoing.