By Carrie Bedingfield
The marketing channel - and the leads it creates - is the lifeblood of every business. The foundation is an authoritative voice in the market, delivered through engaging content. To deliver this without bringing the business to a standstill requires a flexible, systematic approach for creating a sustainable pipeline.
From The B2B Lead Generation Machine, Carrie Bedingfield shares a methodology which any business can set up and run within 6 weeks.
The first, most crucial and most-challenging-but-crumbs-when-you-get-it-right-everything-falls-into-place job is to define your most profitable space. Specifically how you position and describe yourself.
Over 2-3 strategic workshops as a leadership team, aim to:
- Crystallise and profile the markets you are targeting
- Establish the burning platforms
- Create hooks and levers for you to gain traction rapidly
- Package this into a clear proposition for your audiences
- Establish the themes you will lead on in 2013.
Next up - properly define the market segments you've chosen to play in and design a shop window and marketing communication approach that will access decision makers and generate new opportunities.
Done all this? You're ready to build your marketing machine. It's delivered on a quarterly cycle - one theme per quarter. This makes it repeatable and creates huge focus. It also means you're measuring and reviewing very emphatically every 3 months and ploughing the learnings back into the next quarter.
Build your quarterly process using the following four stages. In brief: create great content, spread it far and wide, rake in the leads, nurture to pipeline.
1. Content: Inspire hope and confidence
Claim ownership of your target market place and the themes you have established you will lead on with great content. You'll need to inspire two things through your content:
- Hope - show there is a better, simpler, faster, more profitable world just around the corner. Paint a picture of vibrant success
- Confidence - show there's a high likelihood of getting to this better world by working with/buying from you.
Three reasons to create inspiring content:
- Earn the right to charge a premium price
- Magnetise people to your brand/website/people
- Be the obvious choice in pitches - on and off paper
One way is to create powerful 'thought leadership' in your marketplace - stamping your authority and earning the right to a conversation. The emphasis is on moving way beyond 'we're here, we do this;. Using your in-house capability, tapping into your knowledgeable client base and possibly working in conjunction with one of your partners there is the opportunity to create an opinion piece that generates awareness, access and leads.
The key is to create content framed in such a way that those who click are self-selecting as prospected. For example "The future of data centres" attracts the intellectually curious; "running out of space in your data centre: three choices' attracts those with a problem they'll pay money to solve.
Examples of content that can inspire:
- White papers
- Very sharp knowledge pieces
Idea: 'What if...' series - focused on the issues of your different customers - clients/candidates, challenging the status quo. The content would be highly visual (perhaps a webcast or animation) and would work through a company's recruitment challenge or candidate's decision process; building the balanced and opposing views, acknowledging complexity and pointing out the critical insight made visible at each stage.
Idea: 'The Invisible - Made Visible' series - very sharp set of 2-page articles that give a strong, personality-filled point of view to the market. Highly visual and scannable in print or on the web. The series brings the issues to life and forces readers to question their current approach and ways of working.
Idea: Research paper - a detailed research campaign which allows you to target hard to reach decision makers and build a peer-to-peer relationship with them, whilst leveraging their reputation and knowledge in your content.
2. Create buzz: take your content to the four corners of your market place
If your content (and name) is known across the market place, it provides a soft landing for campaigns, makes your business the 'only choice' - and most importantly drives 'raised hands' over the web (via sign-ups) that you can convert to leads and new clients. 'Sweating' your content is key to getting on the radar of the people you want to reach. Using the high value content to create a noise in your target market segment will put you on the map of a much wider audience albeit invisible at this stage.
Share your opinions with the press, share content via social media, optimise your site for keywords your market is searching on and create a viral effect where trusted partners share your content with their audience.
In practice this includes:
- Setting up and managing relevant LinkedIn groups to magnetise your content
- Contributing to other online groups
- 'Sweating' your high value content in your own communications with clients
- Cultivating social media, e.g. social bookmarking
- Creating and sending online press releases
- Blogging and sending your articles to other bloggers
- Pitching journalists and online publications
3. Generate leads: make invisible eyeballs, tangible relationships
Creating a powerful buzz around your business is a great start - but you'll need to turn the invisible visitors on your website and social media pages into visible names and email addresses that you can proactively build a relationship with, otherwise you'll struggle to get enough new clients over the line.
The objectives at this stage are to generate new name contacts, open up conversations with existing content and cross-sell to existing clients.
And there are two core ways to do this:
Create 'hand raising' opportunities on your destination site. This means engineering a pathway, whereby people who are reading your content are motivated to exchange their details for something of value. This could be: an extra powerful piece of content, a diagnostic tool, a webinar, or event... or something particularly engaging in your market. Your aim should be to generate the highest quality, highest volume of hand raisers possible - set a target and manage your way to it.
Secondly, reach out directly to prospects. Make this outcome focused - i.e. specifying the need/problem and the destination you can take the prospect to and bringing this to life in the prospect's mind, rather than describing 'what you do'.
- A personal email campaign that opens up very broad strategic conversations and leverages right place/right time. Be honest and compelling. Approach prospects with a peer-to-peer approach of 'can we create value together?'
- Offering your content through a powerful email series that highlights exactly who the content is for and the issues it can solve/provide clarity on
- Sending a hard copy letter as a 'market update' with the tone of keeping each prospect informed with key issues/new solutions, rather than overtly selling your solution
4. Nurture leads: turn clicks into pipeline
Most prospects won't be ready to buy right now, even if they have engaged with your content. Automate the process of following up and continually engaging them - they are your goldmine and next year's revenue.
Providing regular, relevant, sustainable communication with your pipeline re-awakens dormant prospects, shortens the sales cycle and sweats the most out of your pipeline.
- Newsletter - regular, fresh, valuable content which keeps you front of mind, cross-sells, encourages referrals and builds your brand. You will need to take a different approach from most other newsletters - it's a well used format, but great information curators are still welcome in inboxes
- "Saw this and thought of you" emails. Design to drip feed high impact small news items (like award nominations) to your database, these emails should feel like a personal update. They are the equivalent of watering your seedlings gently.
- Event - run an event specifically aimed at your target audience to turn email addresses and clicks into real relationships.
And an example in practice: Vybrant Organisation
Vybrant wanted to bring their marketing efforts together with a clear strategy that would truly generate leads end-to-end. They created a machine with efficiency and creativity at its heart.
An example of a quarter with a theme of High Performing Sales Teams
- Created a white paper specifically for sales directors called "White Space for Pioneers: develop the new high performance sales team'. Interviewed 20 sales directors - all new contacts/relationships for Vybrant
- Created a powerful case study about Vybrant's work in a major public sector body
Sweated via eshots, a webinar, social media and 'saw this and thought of you'. In addition, a generic social media and web campaign was delivered including a series of press releases which achieved coverage on over 1000 websites, including many industry leading sites and publications.
Released the white paper to a cold audience, plus ran the 'generic' Vybrant lead gen campaign. The results?
- 8 meetings
- 3 proposals
- 1 piece of closed business; 2 more pending
- Quarterly newsletter created, generating more clicks and incoming enquiries
- Each interviewee was nurtured over a 3-month period to open up new opportunities
ROI was 12:1 (from project closes so far).
For the complete B2B lead generation how-to guide, read The B2B Lead Generation Machine.