- B2B lead generation is a process that takes time to develop.
- B2B leads require fit and behavior data to calculate a quality lead score.
- By the time the customer engages with you, they are about 80% through the buying journey.
- The best B2B companies are the ones that have the best processes in place to qualify leads and engage with them as quickly as possible with relevant messages.
B2B Lead Generation is a Process
The ultimate goal for any firm is to increase deal size, improve deal velocity, and improve conversion rates. All marketing and sales efforts should focus on measuring and improving these three pillars. Companies need to focus on the best possible leads otherwise sales organizations will spend time on unproductive activities.
This article offers more detail about the costs and some of the complexities when dealing with B2B leads. It’s worth mentioning that any good B2B lead generation strategy needs to be based on a set of processes. Specific tools or independent solutions from third-party vendors or managed service companies are important, but the process is even more so. These lead generation processes need testing and maintenance to ensure iterative improvements over time.
The Sales and Marketing Pillars
To sell, a company needs to identify potential customers. Identifying leads and routing these leads to the right people in the organization requires a process, just like any other important business activity.
In the B2B world, warm leads are tough to identify because there are so many variables. Traditionally, setting up a B2B lead generation process considers:
- Defining the prospect: this step consists of defining the ideal company and contacts (also known as personas) to purchase a product or service.
- Training the salesperson: SaaS B2B companies are technical and have very specific use cases, so sales personnel need training before engaging potential customers.
- Setting up trials: almost all SaaS B2B companies offer trial periods so prospects can familiarize themselves with the product and determine whether or not it solves their problem.
- Refining messages during engagement: companies engage prospects with many channels, but the most consistent are email and phone calls. Businesses should test messaging to make sure sales personnel are communicating effectively.
- Nurturing: during this phase, vendors establish a relationship and help uncover the prospect’s problems and offer them a solution to solve it.
Leads in the World of B2B
In the B2B world, leads are associated with accounts. Leads and their associated accounts have propensity scores, also known as Account Propensity Scores (APS’s). The APS helps determine the likelihood of conversion, which helps organizations set priorities. So, in SaaS B2B companies one must treat a lead as the combination of an account and its contacts.
This is due to the fact that in the B2B world decisions are made in many cases by committees, not just one person within the account. It’s safe to assume that B2B leads are more expensive to obtain and convert, simply for the reason that vendors must acquire, nurture, and engage multiple contacts for one sale.
Generally speaking, B2B companies structure a mix of inbound marketing and account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns, such as with content marketing or search, to identify IQLs, MQLs, and SQLs. Selecting which accounts and contacts to target beforehand is known as Account Based Marketing (ABM). This allows companies to structure targeted campaigns at specific accounts and contacts within those accounts, which in theory improves conversion rates.
Leads with Account Propensity Scores (APS)
Why should marketers assign a lead score (APS) before assigning a lead to the sales organization? Put simply, it allows companies to rank leads by priority. If there are only two sales reps available and ten leads in the funnel, then these leads to a ranking so sales reps don’t spend time on low-value leads and focus most of their efforts on higher value leads.
APS’s, generally speaking, are calculated by mixing ‘fit’ and ‘behavior’ data. Fit data is information that allows marketers and sales reps understand if an account and their contacts meet their criteria for an ideal account. Behavior data is used to measure intent and usually requires more of a learning process. The weight assigned to each attribute in the fit and behavior categories is also known as ‘attribution’. Estimating attribution for each campaign can be very complex, but generally speaking businesses:
- Fit information. Fit information is a combination of firmographic, technographic, and demographic data. Questions such as ‘what companies are located in the midwest, which sell more than 10 million but less than 50 million and have Salesforce’
- Behavior information. Measuring intent is important as usually the first company engage a potential customer has a much higher likelihood of closing the deal. Behavior should be measured on inbound marketing channel content as well as public channels.
- Attribution. The attributes and their weights are usually tested and adjusted over time, depending on what combination of attributes (and their weights) lead to improved conversion rates. Examples include ‘score zero on IP’s that come from our office’ and ‘score two on users that download xyz ebook.’
How do B2B Companies Get Their Leads?
B2B companies get their leads from many sources, but we could probably boil them down to the following:
- Inbound marketing campaigns: strategies such as content marketing, paid search, social media, among others are popular to drive traffic to a company’s site and move the lead along a journey with the ultimate goal of converting them to a sale. These campaigns are managed by in-house staff, outsourced to firms, or have a combination of both.
- Account Based Marketing or Outbound campaigns: many companies have embraced ABM as a key component to their overall strategy. CRM’s and Martech vendors have included data sources within their software stacks, which allows marketers and sales reps to easily search for qualified accounts and contacts with good ‘fit’ and ‘behavior’ data. Larger companies actually purchase this information from third parties and integrate them into their processes.
- Managed Services: some companies would rather outsource the lead qualification process to a third party. Some even schedule appointments on your behalf, such as for a demo.
Every company is different and all choices are viable. Our only recommendation is to ensure that third-party vendors or internal departments are integrated into the company’s process (read well documented API) to avoid excessive vendor lock-in and reduce switching costs.
It’s also important that a vendor or third party service communicates how the process will get better with time, either because they get to know your business well or are integrated with your internal software stacks which would allow them to push updates seamlessly for improved performance.
Leading organizations have automated the B2B sales process as much as possible to improve the productivity of their sales organization. This has far-reaching implications for the business, as it allows it to compress sales cycles, improve conversions (we all know that calling first is half the battle), and increase deal size. Plus, if we are considering both fit and behavior data in a propensity score these have the added benefit of helping companies engage potential customers with the right message, at the right time, and in the right format. Continually improving this process over time helps organizations remain competitive.