Lead generation, the process of driving qualified prospects into the sales funnel, is the single most important activity for B2B marketing and sales departments. According to DueDil “State of Sales Report”, 61% of sales and marketing professionals stated lead generation was very important. To put this in perspective, only 35% thought knowing their prospects' budget was very important. All in all, 89% of those surveyed said lead generation was important or very important for the success of the organization – by far the leading predictor business success according to those surveyed.
Other factors deemed important included knowing key employees and decision makers, identifying and qualifying leads by need, and ensuring the prospect had the authority to purchase.
Lead generation is a sort of dance between the marketing and sales departments. Without effective marketing, the sales department is unable to do its job effectively. And, in many cases, without feedback from the sales department, the quality and effectiveness of lead generation efforts by the marketing department will greatly suffer.
As the overall marketing and business ecosphere continues to become more complex and more technology solutions become available, decision makers are reacting by wanting to make decisions based on more thorough research. For marketers, this means the creation, distribution, and amplification of high-quality content will pay dividends if the content matches the buyer persona of the prospect.
B2B marketing provides several unique challenges:
B2B decision maker’s time is much more scarce
There’s usually one organizer but several decision makers
The purchasing process is much more complex than B2C
Their buying motivations usually consist of competing interests
Gone are the days of making a major decision based solely on the recommendation of a fellow executive. Today, B2B decision makers want to make absolutely sure they're choosing the best product (or vendor) among many alternatives. Furthermore, the organization-wide implications and complexity of decisions has never been so palpable. As such, B2B decision makers are doing more research than ever before. This provides marketers (and those selling targeting B2B audiences) with an opportunity to reach their audience at the earliest stages of the conversion funnel.
An interesting study by Regalix found 86% of B2B decision makers start the first phase of the conversion funnel – Awareness – with organic search. Surprisingly, even to someone who preaches the value of organic SEO daily, organic search remains important throughout the entire buyer journey and outperforms paid search in every way.
What are these high-value prospects looking for when they search? High-quality, education content to inform their decision. In fact, over 75% of B2B decision makers rely on content more than they did a year ago. But, knowing they’re looking for content isn’t enough. Executives with this type of buying power are picky. And, when landing on websites, they expect to find certain types of content.
There are a few important takeaways from this survey of B2B decision makers. (Demand Gen Report “B2B Content Preference Survey”)
The most impactful forms of content were white papers, e-books, and case studies. None of these are novel approaches to content creation; however, they pack the substances B2B decision makers require before making a decision. And this makes sense - many of the price tags on enterprise-level software could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, in their defense, they’d be doing their own organization a disservice not to expect comprehensive research and analysis before making a decision. (If you don’t believe me, just check out the length of a Forrester Report. I think the last one I “read” was 120+ pages.)
One exception to this rule is content in the middle or lower portion of the funnel. In these cases, B2B marketers should worry more about selling the prospect in the most concise and effective way than ensuring the prospect is has a multitude of resources to answer his or questions with.
The most preferred content forms are usually printed on paper and read by actually flipping pages with one’s fingers. Webinars and videos, the two most effective forms of interactive content, are certainly on the rise and shouldn't be ignored; however, more “new age” content formats such as podcasts and interactive presentations have yet to catch on with this audience.
Having a variety of content formats available is always the best idea. For example, videos may have a higher conversion rate but it might take piquing the prospects interest with more traditional content before they’ll consider watching video content.
Just like most other citizens of the web, business executives with serious buying power share content too. But, the way and places they share it are quite a bit different.
The biggest mistake a marketer could make is to underestimate B2B decision makers’ likelihood of sharing content. According to Quartz “Global Executive Study” , 91% of B2B decision makers said they would share content with colleagues and peers if it was compelling. By far the most common form of sharing content is email. Marketers targeting B2B buyers should ensure they have intuitive, email share buttons near any public content facing content. For those that want to get a bit more sophisticated, try this: After gathering a prospect's email and contact info, send them an autoresponder that contains the requested content along with an email tracking pixel. The most advanced providers of email analytics software will allow you to see how many times and to what people an email is forwarded to. Be sure to go research any email addresses the content was forwarded to so you can add them in your CRM.