B2B marketers are noticing an alarming trend of false positives on their lead generation campaigns. Are they just poor-quality leads? Unfortunately, the reality isn’t so simple.
After years focusing on lead-generation, business-to-business marketers are starting to notice a troubling trend. The growing investments they’ve been making in digital lead generation appear to be working, delivering on all the marketing KPIs and justifying marketing spend.
But when their sales teams try to engage these prospects, they’re increasingly hearing, “I’ve never heard of your company,” or “I don’t remember downloading that white paper,” or even more regularly… silence.
With hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually to generate sales leads, it’s become apparent that a significant amount of this money is being wasted.
What’s driving these false positives on lead generation programs? While it would be easy to chalk this up to poor-quality leads, the reality is not that simple.
Why Unbranded Leads Are Damaging Your Marketing Effort
B2B marketers must demonstrate that their lead generation programs are generating revenue. In compiling this evidence, they’re realizing what many B2C marketers have also discovered: an unbranded lead is virtually worthless.
Back in the days when buying a list of names and cold calling were the primary modes of B2B sales and marketing, unbranded leads used to work. While the prospect may not have heard of your company, the old buying process made them receptive to such calls; that was how they learned about new suppliers and products. That’s no longer the case.
Today’s industrial buyers have a vast amount of information immediately at their fingertips, radically and irrevocably changing the buying process. This shift means sales and marketing interactions with buyers must change as well.
You’re Marketing To Human Beings, Not Machines
As a ‘lead-gen vs. brand marketing’ debate evolves from this marketing shift, it’s clear that creating an integrated balance between the two is the best path forward.
However, the digital transformation of the buying process, as well as that of marketing and sales, makes it critical to understand that in today’s marketplace your brand marketing efforts must map to the buying process – not your sales process.
In other words, you need to sell the way today’s buyer buys.
In this new paradigm, effective brand marketing requires a closed-loop strategy to convert unbranded leads to branded leads before delivering them to sales. Marketing teams must take an “Interest to Invoice” design approach that maps to how prospects and customers use information at every phase of their buying process.
The key to this is understanding buyer behaviours.
Tools like buyer personas can help, but they rarely factor in the human behaviors that also influence the purchase process. These are real people with stress, pride, fear, and career goals trying to deliver on their job to help the company.
Effective marketing requires an in-depth understanding of the “jobs-to-be-done” your buyer deals with and the human emotions that come with them. New research in behavioral economics, intended to better understand decision making around investing and purchasing, illustrates that even pragmatic and logic-based decision making is still impacted by emotion.
How Do I Understand My Buyer Today?
In a field in which the buying process can take years to complete, today’s buyers can be as much as 70% of the way through the process before they engage with a sales representative.
Throughout the stages of their buying process, they need different types of information and levels of support as they evaluate possible solutions and the suppliers who can provide them. For example, an organization’s industrial buying process can be broken down into six successive stages:
1. Define a Need
2. Research possible solutions
3. Design of the component, assembly, or product
4. Evaluate potential solutions and suppliers
5. Create a Shortlist of suppliers
6. Purchase from the winning supplier
These six stages are deceptively simple. In fact, there are 139 distinct jobs that typically need to be done by buyers over the course of this industrial buying process. With this figure in mind, effective brand marketing requires providing the right type of information that helps the buyer accomplish the jobs-to-be-done depending on their current stage of the buying process.
How To Begin Helping Prospects Get Their Jobs Done
As the buyer begins researching possible solutions, they are willing to provide their name, title, and email address in exchange for helpful information; digital marketing tactics such as display advertising, trade newsletter sponsorships, and SEO/SEM campaigns that offer eBooks, white papers, or other ‘non-selling’ assets are particularly effective at this point.
It’s at this early stage where brand awareness and affinity are created, and where a marketer can appeal to a buyer’s behavior to establish a relationship. This turns the buyer into a marketing-qualified lead in your system – but they have not requested to be contacted by sales.
Next, your marketing team begins nurturing the lead by offering support to the buyer until they become a sales-qualified lead – or more importantly, a thoroughly branded lead. As the buyer enters the design and evaluation stages of the process, they value resources such as CAD or BIM models, product data sheets, configurators, and catalogs, or case studies.
Harness Audience Data To Improve Conversions
In addition to connecting with the buyer through nurturing downloads, marketing teams can utilize website tracking platforms to learn if, when, and how the buyer has been interacting with website content. This data illustrates whether that buyer is likely to be a thoroughly branded lead and when they’re ready to be handed off to sales.
Nurturing prospects to become branded leads requires a smart strategy, but little – if any – guesswork. Today’s marketing data platforms provide powerful insights into where buyers are within their buying process, enabling your marketing team to engage with those buyers accordingly and position your company as a trusted resource.
4 Things You Can Do Today to Power-up Your Marketing with Branded Leads
In building your brand awareness and relevance, you will become a trusted advisor by being helpful to the buyer throughout their buying process. To succeed in B2B marketing today:
1. Understand your prospective buyers’ jobs-to-be-done and the related human behaviors that come with them.
2. Reach and help buyers at the beginning of their buying process with digital marketing solutions such as display advertising, SEO and PPC, marketing qualified leads campaigns, and newsletter sponsorships, and offer helpful top of funnel, downloadable information.
3. Reach and help buyers in the middle stages of their buying process with high-value downloadable content such as CAD/BIM models, case studies, and product information.
4. Reach and help buyers near the end of their buying process by staying top of mind with targeted marketing like a company profile on industrial sourcing platforms and retargeted display advertising that drive to a robust website.