B2B Marketing

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August 16th, 2011

Something a simple enterprise software system can easily cost $100,000 and upwards. It is no wonder that business buyers are turning more and more to the web as an integral part of their due diligence.

Realizing this, business-to-business (B2B) marketers are optimizing how they market to potential customers on the web. B2B strategies and marketing tools are being used to engage buyers more effectively, increasing the flow of qualified leads through the sales funnel.

A recent CSO Insights study found that 51 percent of marketing organizations are using lead management systems and 60 percent are using some form of lead scoring before passing B2B leads to sales. And considering the current economic climate, more and more marketers are turning to these types of tactics to boost efficiencies.

Many forms of lead generation are not magical. For example, anyone can place ads on Google. However, the key is how these leads are handled through the sales funnel. Marketing automation can be used to collect leads, generate stats on user behavior, and then hand over qualified leads to sales via Salesforce.com integration. Prospects that are not immediately receptive to communications from the sales team are put back into a “nurturing” program to receive additional targeted messages designed to further nurture interest.

The Buying Process

It is critical for B2B marketers to have an understanding on how potential customers flow through the sales funnel.

1. Awareness. Prospects might start out using general search terms in Google. This then might attract them to items such as educational materials and webinars.

2. Research. Digging deeper, prospects will then research a particular solution or brand, and in this phase are often more likely to respond to free trials and demos.

3. Consideration. During this decision-making phase, buyers typically look at comparisons and reviews, consuming content that pits one vendor against another.

As you can imagine, providing the right offer at the right time is critical. For example, it does not make sense to treat a prospect as a qualified sales lead when all they have done is download a spec sheet in the awareness phase. Not allowing time for prospects to properly flow through the nurturing process will only result in unqualified leads being passed to sales.

When is a lead qualified? When there has been a series of interactions that demonstrates the prospect has moved from early awareness to consideration.

Breaking the Gridlock

Marketers are often judged on lead volume. Sales reps on the other hand are judged on closing deals, meaning they do not want to spend any time on opportunities that are not ready to buy now. As you can imagine, this often means there is a gap between these two groups. Good prospects often fall into this gap, never getting called, or called once and forgotten.

Through a sound strategy, a common ground around lead qualification can be found. Having a systematic way of scoring a lead and determining when they are sales worthy is critical to bridging the gap.

Creating Success

Marketers can break the gridlock by providing tools to directly help sales have insights into their prospects behavior as well as providing ways for reps to interact with their prospects. Imagine empowering reps to deploy things like micro-portals for individual prospects; publishing content, events and messages, and enabling prospects to share information with colleagues involved in the buying decision. The prospect gets a better buying experience, the sales rep improves their effectiveness, and the marketer becomes a key partner in the process.

To create this success, there’s some low-hanging fruit that marketers can immediately focus on for incremental improvements.

In the end, it is not just about lead generation, it’s about generating qualified opportunities. Marketing needs to better understanding precisely how prospects buy, and work to integrate marketing with sales by deploying the right strategies and technologies to improve the odds of success.