When you run a B2B company, it goes without saying that producing significant returns is always a top concern. However, every time you deliver, you only raise the bar higher. It’s not enough to rely on add-on acquisitions and margin enhancement to fuel growth. They work but they’re not the end-all, be-all. You need a long-term organic growth solution.
But organic topline growth does not come free and easy. There are always risks in launching a new product, entering a new market, or exploring a new channel. Company leaders are battling the clock, hoping to deliver strong results before the end of the quarter. Bypassing the experimentation and getting right to effective strategies is imperative.
That’s where our five-step process for enhancing digital lead generation comes in. We’ve seen this approach reduce acquisition costs by 80 percent over digital channels and lower the sales cycle time by 50 percent. The secret lies in helping organizations find more qualified prospects in a shorter time. Here’s how it works.
1. Start With Market Segmentation
How well do you know your target audience? It’s not enough to rely on sweeping generalizations like “the middle market” or “CIOs” to describe them. That’s certainly a place to start, but it won’t get you the specificity you need to drive meaningful results.
To find your best customers, you must winnow down your total addressable market (TAM). Across industries, we’ve found that 40 to 50 percent of accounts in a business’s TAM will never buy. Even worse, some customers are so onerous to service that B2Bs actually lose money on those relationships.
Instead of wasting time on fruitless prospects, identify three to five buyer personas within your TAM that are the perfect fit for your offering. These are the organizations that desperately need your solution to address their most significant pain point.
Imagine if you could take the time and energy you usually expend on nonstarter prospects and instead reallocate it toward the top 20 percent of your TAM.
We worked with a SaaS company to help them do just that. We identified three use-case segments, each with unique buying signals.
One was interested in the data platform to assist in the diligence process for a potential acquisition. Another wanted to use the software as part of their annual planning process. The third needed it for quarterly quota-setting for their sales team.
With such a wide range of customer needs, the SaaS company could not approach these segments with the same messaging and value proposition. Once the team began crafting unique messaging for each segment, they saw a 30 percent increase in sales in the first year and another 20 percent boost in year two (after experiencing no growth in years prior).
2. Next Come Buyer Personas
Once you’ve narrowed down your total addressable market, it’s time to engage in the creation of buyer personas. This exercise happens at the intersection of market research and data science.
It’s common for organizations to rely on anecdotal evidence to create these personas, but that is a mistake. These Frankenstein personas, born from a collection of stories you’ve heard (or maybe even told yourself) about who buys from you, are only 33 percent accurate.
A rigorous analysis of your market takes some time up front, but the long-term benefits are so worth it. Delve into the data on your customers—not just their firmographics, but also their behaviors and the why behind their purchase. For B2Bs, it’s also crucial to understand the players involved in the sales process, from decision-makers to end-users.
When you get to know your buyer persona inside and out, you’ll learn what their ideal features or benefit set looks like. You’ll uncover the precise emotional hooks to get someone to buy. And you’ll identify the optimal price point.
3. Create Lead Magnets To Attract Ideal Customers
With COVID reducing our opportunities to court prospects in person at networking events, a digital lead magnet is the way to go. This digital asset can be anything that provides value and directly addresses a problem your target faces: a whitepaper, ebook, or webinar are all potential lead magnet formats.
The key to using lead magnets to attract new customers is to give them away for free in exchange for opting to be contacted by your team.
For example, we recently released a whitepaper on marketing personas with Adweek, which we are offering for free in exchange for an email signup. The prospects benefit from high-quality research conducted in conjunction with one of the leading names in marketing and advertising, and we get the opportunity to demonstrate our value with a new audience.
4. Pay To Promote the Lead Magnet
A thoughtful lead magnet takes time to create. Do not waste your efforts by keeping it a secret! Now is the time to invest in paid media to ensure your ideal customers see your lead magnet.
For B2B organizations, LinkedIn is typically the best place to promote your offering. However, we’ve seen B2Bs succeed with other channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Google, and related business media companies.
No matter where you choose to advertise, drive traffic from your ad to a landing page on your website. Include a simple form where a visitor can provide their contact information in exchange for access to your lead magnet.
5. Follow Up With Empathy
Once a prospect has provided their contact information, it’s time for your business development representatives to follow up with them. This process should be handled with empathy; no one wants to feel like they’re being hassled or pitched in an early interaction with a new organization.
Instead, create a series of emotionally-attuned questions to qualify the prospect. Each buyer persona should have its own tailored set of questions. Demonstrate that you understand their pain points. Center the prospect and their feelings, rather than your own sales goals, in your questionnaire. That is the way to start your new relationship off on the right foot.
Successful digital lead generation requires a methodical approach. When you eliminate the noise of ill-suited buyers and instead double-down on attuned and empathetic communication with your ideal prospects, you accelerate organic sales growth while reducing risk.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, two daughters, and black lab.