Driving Leads vs. Generating Demand for Small B2B Businesses
Do you know that there is a difference between lead generation and demand generation? These two tactics are definitely on the same coin, but there is definitely a difference. Case in point – you can’t do “demand generation” without first having the leads from which to create the demand.
Whereas lead generation is the practice of attracting an audience to your business via inbound and outbound marketing efforts – with the ultimate goal of inquiry and/or to capture information – demand generation is the stuff that happens after the customer has raised his or her hand in exchange for information they want, need, or request. Therefore, you will want to capture first name, last name, and email address at the very least. One caveat is that this should be entirely different from your “Newsletter.” Just because someone wants to hear from you via your newsletter doesn’t mean they are a viable lead or candidate for your product – yet. Therefore, don’t consider your “newsletter” subscription list as your lead list. This leaves you free to have fun with the content of your newsletter, making it less “salesly” and more about your personality as a business and a brand. Your lead list should be generated out of something of value, content that moves them toward serious consideration and potential purchase of your product or service.
Lead Generation for B2B Business
For now, I will focus on B2B lead generation; however, lead generation itself can also be leveraged in a B2C or e-commerce environment, with just a few tweaks. I will touch on this in a separate blog post. Again, it’s just a matter of two sides to the same coin with different goals, outcomes, and incentives that are more consumer or retail in nature.
When it comes to B2B products and services, a deliberate approach to drive viable B2B qualified leads is the result of investing marketing dollars in an integrated inbound and outbound marketing strategy. I will touch on the difference between inbound and outbound marketing shortly. But, in order to entice someone to engage with you, you’ll want to offer something of value. Your offer may be a free trial, a free consultation, a report, an e-book, a white paper, or even access to a “Freemium” version of your product or service. Or, perhaps you have a whole library of content to offer, or even a community message board for like-minded customers to share learnings and help each other solve challenges.
Lead Generation – Inbound Marketing
Inbound Marketing is the practice of turning first-time website visitors into customers and, ideally, promoters or ambassadors of your product, service, or brand. Leveraging several tactics at once, as opposed to one or two here and there, exponentially increase your chances of success, as they build upon each other to achieve your goals.
Lead generation can be achieved with inbound marketing by starting with a search-engine-optimized and growth-driven approach to your website, in addition to specialized content mentioned above (e-books, white papers, etc.), retargeting advertising, and use of social media. A growth-driven approach to your website means taking a user-centric, data-driven approach to your website improvement. Tools such as heat maps and Google Analytics can help inform you of user behavior so you can make changes that improve conversion throughout the site.
For smaller budgets, the “freest” way to leverage inbound is to have a website that’s easy to find, optimized to outwit competition, and easy to use, coupled with word-of-mouth through a smart and engaging social media community. Additionally, on site and off-site SEO, such as link building (albeit labor intensive), significantly aids in the success of your SEO. Social media is inexpensive and effective, because the more people you can get to engage and share your content on social media, the better, whether it’s via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or other fringe platforms showing up on the Internet such as Parler, BitChute, and D-Live. Depending on your industry, there may even be a social media platform or two that caters to your specific target audience. For instance, if you’re in the gun or sport shooting industry, there is a social media platform called Gun District that might be of interest.
Other methods of inbound marketing include blogging, email marketing to existing house list, marketing automation and nurturing, and video content both on your site and on video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. Keep in mind that platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo are simply search engines for visual content, and need an SEO strategy of their own.
And don’t forget about other content platforms where you can post additional content. Platforms such as Quora, Reddit, Medium, etc. are other platforms with large numbers of eyeballs seeking information.
Lead Generation – Outbound Marketing
All the rage right now is inbound marketing, mainly because it’s more cost effective and slightly easier to turn a new visitor to your website into a customer than it is to be discovered or found by your target audience. You at least have the advantage of being “heard of” with inbound marketing.
On the other hand, outbound marketing takes a little more effort, more trial and error, and, in many cases, more investment. Think of outbound marketing as the more traditional methods with which you may be familiar: direct mail, social media advertising (as opposed to free engagement on your own page), tradeshows, radio/TV, press releases, and cold outreach, whether calls or emails.
I want to touch on email list purchase just briefly, as it is typically hit or miss and you really have to conduct due diligence into the quality of the data. More reputable vendors give you an honest report and assessment on quality. But if it sounds too good to be true (we have a 98% accuracy rate!), it probably is. According to ZD Net, 31% of email addresses change each year due to things such as a job change or a simple strategy to avoid spam. Therefore, if the list you purchase is at least a year old, you can almost guarantee at least 30% will bounce, which harms your deliverability and reputation rating with your email service provider. Scraping yourself off the net’s blacklists is not something you want to deal with, ever, because it’s time consuming and frustrating. Then, to stay off the blacklists, you’ll have to be on your best email behavior. Here’s a great article about the top email blacklists you want to ensure your IP address avoids.
Demand Generation for B2B Business
Once you have the lead, or subscriber, how you engage with the individual to move them through the sales funnel is what’s known as demand generation. This is when the magic happens, through communication and relationship building. In the simplest terms, you’re nurturing them to the point where they are all but ready to buy or, at the very least, want to speak with someone. A critical success factor to move a lead from being just an inquiry, or white paper downloader, to an engaged lead, is to begin communicating with them right away, typically via email. Be sure to capture their name and email address, and if you do regional offers, zip code becomes important. If you travel across the country and participate in events such as tradeshows, capturing zip code will enable you to send out targeted emails when you’re going to a particular area.
When they first show up in your system, whether they’ve signed up for your newsletter or downloaded a white paper, you’ll want to send an initial welcome email (this can be triggered using email service providers such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact, and even Salesforce.com if you’ve investing in that platform), and, depending upon the complexity of your product or service, you may want to consider a welcome series to educate them on your product, service, or company. This opens the door for value-added content that helps the customer understand what you’re about, and what problems you solve.
You’ll want to be prepared with a series of content, either value-added or learning in nature, that illustrates you understand their business, what’s important to them, and how your product or service makes their lives and their businesses easier to manage and more profitable. Really important is cadence – don’t bombard them every day with something new, but rather put 5 to 7 days in between each message to give them time to read it and take action. If you’re using a marketing automation platform, you can design the nurture flow to send content based upon the action taken on the previous email. Through test and learn, trial and error, you’ll eventually know precisely what messages lead a particular lead type or target right down the path to conversion. And that, my friends, is the holy grail!
Thanks for reading! If you need help getting started with your demand generation practice, or need some assistance optimizing your conversion, I would love to hear from you. Contact Me or Schedule some Time to discuss your demand generation program, and let’s see if I can help you accelerate your success.