Sales are the life blood of every business. They’re what keeps them alive and can see an organisation blossom from a start-up, into an industry-leader, and even go on to become a global enterprise. Without them though, the future can quickly become uncertain.
Vital to landing sales and securing that healthy balance sheet is the ability to produce a consistent supply of high quality leads. And the web is fast becoming an unstoppable force when it comes to generating them – and one that you simply cannot afford to miss out on.
Research consistently backs up the importance that online now plays in the B2B sales process. Buyers are heading online and researching solutions long before they contact any potential suppliers. A whopping 94 percent of business buyers do some form of online research, according to a State of B2B Procurement study by the Acquity Group, and the time spent researching potential purchases is also increasing, according to DemandGen.
The good news is that by being present online; using marketing tactics that are based around providing targeted and interesting content; and overall enabling yourself to be ‘found’ by the right type of people with the right type of need; you will be putting yourself in a great position to capitalise on it.
So what’s it all about? And where do you start?
The ground work: Know who your best leads are going to be
At the heart of any marketing strategy is knowing very clearly who your target customer is and how they go about finding information about what they need. This is not as easy as it may at first sound. You can find out more about defining your target customer and knowing what a good lead will look like, here.
Once you are clear on exactly who your target customers are and can focus in on them, you can then start to put together an online strategy and your plan for delivering it. Here is the general process you may follow with your plan:
Phase 1: Start building your assets
Content is the main driver when it comes to generating sales leads online. With your target customer in mind, begin by producing a few pieces of high quality content that are on a topic related to your product or service – be very careful here, we’re not talking about a sales piece. It must be content that is designed to be interesting, informative and engaging to your target customer. NOT salesy.
You may for example do a couple of blogs that are advice pieces which people can instantly access. Then you may also produce content that can be downloaded from your website – like a guide, or a special report – that will be a larger and more meaty document. For this content, set up a form so that a visitor needs to share their email address with you to be able to download and read it. That way you will instantly have a mechanism in place to capture data from a potential lead.
Phase 2: Fill out your offering
Now it is time to start filling out your strategy with more content and also to make sure your website is fully optimised. This means enhancing it where you need to, so it is working as effectively as possible. You are, after all, going to be driving more traffic to it, so you want to ensure you’re making the most of every potential lead coming your way.
Keep your target customer firmly in mind. Think what their experience will be like when they visit your website. How are they likely to move around it? Does it flow clearly? What will they want to see? Your website should be all about the user experience, not what you want it to be. If you’re not already doing so then consider using analytics tools that will show you how your website is currently doing – from what’s working well, to what you should be doing more of, and where it may need more work and be losing you potential prospects.
Phase 3: Assess and refine
It is important to regularly analyse what you are doing and to really drill down to what’s worked so you can adjust your strategy and plans as needed. Digital tools can help with this, for example by allowing you to track a sale back to its origin. You can see the journey that was taken right from the point that the lead was generated, to how it was nurtured along the sales process, until finally being landed by the sales team.
By analysing all the data you can get your hands on you will be giving yourself some fantastic insights, so you’re never working blind, or falling into the trap of relying on assumptions. You will also be able to check that every penny (and minute of time) that you’re investing is being spent in the right places. This will be especially important as you develop your online marketing activity and look to invest more in it.
Phase 4: Eat, sleep, repeat
You are now in a great place to develop and expand your activity even further. Continue with this process. Keep increasing and optimising your activities where ever you can, while analysing what the real impact has been so you can make informed decisions.
The better and more targeted your online marketing activity is, and the more time and effort you dedicate to doing it, the more results you will get. And it will get easier once you’re up and running with it and your bank of content grows.
Things you need to know
As with anything, there is no magic formula when it comes to finding and securing your ideal leads. It really is about playing the long game and not expecting one blog, or one download, to instantly bag you a sale.
Here are some other points to bear in mind when it comes to online sales lead generation.
- There's a lot of trial (guessing) and error (getting it wrong) before getting it right.
- It needs constant analysis if it’s going to work effectively.
- It takes around 6-12 months to set it up correctly and fine tune your own online lead generation machine.
- It is hard to prove ROI in the first year but not impossible. There will definitely be many invaluable lessons learned along the way.
- It doesn't work without spending time on a clear strategy upfront.
- It takes a lot of understanding of your target customers and a strong customer-centric approach, for example in the way your website is set up and what content is produced.
- Software is your friend and can support you and save you time at many stages of the process.
- It may seem an expensive way to generate leads but in the long run it will be more affordable and will have a higher ROI than traditional non-website related lead generation methods.
- Team work is vital and it will need marketing and sales to talk to each other, and perhaps customer services too, to make sure everyone is aiming for the same thing and sharing all their insights.
- It takes at least one person who is dedicated to doing nothing else but concentrating on online lead generation if you’re going to give it a fair shot.
You only need to put yourself into the shoes of a buyer by searching some terms online and you’ll see online sales lead generation in action. With the web being the main and often first place that potential prospects will go for information, you really cannot afford to ignore it.
Just having a website isn’t going to be enough. You need to be getting yourself in front of your target customers far earlier in the process and to help them find you. Online content marketing is a great way to do this. And if you’re not there getting yourself seen then the chances are one of your competitors will be.