B2B Lead generation has evolved quite dramatically over the last few years owing to the rise of social media. The numbers tell the tale:
- 84% of B2B marketers use social media in some form. (Aberdeen)
- 83% of marketers indicate that social media is important for their business. (Social Media Examiner)
- 62% of marketers said social media became more important to the marketing campaigns in the last 6 months. (State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)
- 44% of B2B marketers have generated leads via LinkedIn. (ReachForce)
- 61% of B2B marketers say that the biggest challenge they face in regards to lead generation is generating high-quality leads – (B2B Technology Marketing Community)
- Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing but costs 62% less. (Demand Metric)
It is fair to say that the new age of lead generation is here and it is being led by social media.
The traditional B2B lead generation process was driven by interruptive marketing. Mailers, cold calls, strategically placed advertisements etc. all played a crucial role in lead generation mainly because it was an information starved world. However, these channels ceased to be as effective once information was available at everyone’s fingertips. The rise of the internet, rise of social channels and proliferation of smartphones paved the way for instant information so much so that customers today are often better informed than the sales people selling to them. Due to the wealth of information available online, there has been a conscious uncoupling of selling and buying cycles with digital marketing channels significantly impacting consumer behavior. Today over 80% of B2B buyers take more time to research while 82% view more sources before making a buying decision. While some B2B companies recognize the signs of digital disruption many are still unprepared to meet it head on.
It is quite clear that in order to make a strong impression on the buyer during their search cycle, B2B companies now have to create insightful content. Further, they need make this content easy to “be found” by circulating it on the relevant social channels. Since content is the first point of contact with prospective buyers, it has to speak to and provide answers to a customer’s needs. The main aim of content should be to educate and show value and not just list out features of the solution in the offering. Being generous with information and curating content that is relevant to the line of business with a degree of diversity helps B2B companies establish themselves as thought leaders and reliable partners for business. Take Xerox for example. Xerox created a microsite that offered relevant tips to business owners. Over 70% of the companies who were a part of their target audience interacted with this microsite. Following this, Xerox was able to add 20,000 new contacts to their pipeline, out of which 10,000 resulted in scheduled appointments.
Research suggests that 52% of buyers view 2 to 4 pieces of content before making a buying decision. It is clear from these numbers that buyers do not like being sold to any more. Forrester Research states, “today’s buyer is two-thirds to 90% of the way through their purchase journey before they reach out to the vendor” and they have access to enough information, to be able to evaluate their options which can then lead to face-to-face selling. Needless to say, content has become a powerful lead generation tool and hence B2B marketers need to focus heavily on content creation activities such as blogs, whitepapers, infographics, webinars, videos, eBooks etc.
As mentioned earlier, creating content is not enough. It is equally important to tweak this content before pushing it out across social channels so that it can be consumed properly. Since audience actions are different across different channels your content has to initiate a conversation with the audience. Making tweaks such as making content more visual for Facebook, in depth for LinkedIn, immediate for Twitter are just a few things to keep in mind. Marketing automation also plays a very important role in lead generation for B2B since the content needs to be delivered according to digital behavior.
This is where the traditional lead generation mechanisms like cold calling have to take over the sales process. A handoff takes places from marketing to sales and Cold calling has to become a much more integral part of the lead generation strategy. The need is to align the efforts and speak the same language as the social channels. In the age of digital connections, cold calling cannot exist in isolation. In order to find a receptive prospect at the other end of the phone sales people now need to mine the social network, find connections first and then place the call to start a conversation – as an organic extension of the information seeking process and not a call that is thrust upon the prospect.
Needless to say, the social era has ushered in a new age for lead generation…one that the seasoned sales professional could certainly get used to.
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