Generating sales leads online for B2B products and services can seem counter intuitive at first. After all, those business deals tend to rely on personal relationships developed over years of networking and sales prospecting. In fact, I know a few B2B salespeople who tend to avoid doing any of their networking online. They claim, “not enough time,” “not efficient,” “not how I work.” That is, until I explain the top 5 factors influencing B2B sales lead generation.
Once sales leaders understand the connection between these critical B2B marketing factors and revenue, ears perk up. Funny how that works.
Of course, if you’re among those looking for tips to improve your online B2B sales lead generation and conversion efforts, learn from B2B companies that don’t plan for and invest in an online presence. They’re missing out on our increasingly global marketplace, where potential leads can’t visit your office but can still get to know you through virtual means.
To differentiate and close more online leads, keep reading. Here are Stikky Media’s top 5 factors influencing B2B sales lead generation if you want to convert more qualified visitors into leads.
We can’t say it often enough: your website is the virtual equivalent of a first impression. If it’s old, badly designed or simply inexistent, you’ll miss out on quite a lot of potential leads just because visitors will be turned off.
An archaic-looking website jumps out right away, and so do amateur ones. With today’s wide variety of looks and styles, as well as advanced technical possibilities, websites don’t have to be boring. They still need to be usable, but the possibilities are rather close to endless (see some beautiful websites).
What does your website need to be attractive to leads? In short, you need:
- A clear value proposition
- Social proof
- Good “About us” page
- Contact info
- A blog (you’ll see why it matters for B2B leads below)
All of this should be packaged in a visually pleasing website that still follows web usability best practices.
2. Portfolio or case studies
The second most important element to convice potential clients is a good portfolio page or, if you’re not in the creative field, at least a few case studies.
These are really important because they show how your past and current clients have found success with your product or service. If there’s no proof of your company’s ability to serve what it promises, it’s not likely that you’ll develop any kind of trust with visitors and leads.
For example, our projects is a great source of information for our potential clients. There they can find examples of websites in similar fields and categories as their business, and they can check out our work to see if it fits their style and needs.
Case studies are a bit different. They go in more depth about the process, solution and results of using your product or services. They work especially well for complex products and services; they also help a lot for companies with long sales cycles.
Content is a rather vague and general term when it comes to the internet; basically everything on there is content. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll consider content the helpful information found on your website. What “helpful” means depends on who your target audience is.
To determine your level of expertise and your involvement in the field, a potential lead will look through your website for evidence of helpful, informational content that teaches him or her about your product or service, your field of work, etc. This can be developed in several forms:
- Blog posts, white papers, ebooks
- Slideshare presentations
Again, companies with longer sales cycles will find that using a variety of content types will help leads move along the cycle faster. Share some relevant content to hook them up, follow up with some great lead nurturing emails, and voilà! a lead that your sales team can close in no time.
4. Expertise of employees
When you deal with a business, you ultimately deal with its whole team, whether you spoke to them in the sales process or not. So it’s good to know that the people who are going to build your product or provide the services you need know what they’re doing.
Bios on team pages can help with that, but do you know what’s more effective? Blog posts.
Every member of your team (or at least a representative of every department) should contribute to your company’s blog. As a potential lead looks at your website and your blog, he or she will see that your employees know what they’re talking about and provide helpful advice.
If that doesn’t contribute to visitor trust, I don’t know what does!
5. Presence on social media
Last but not least, having a presence on social media is among the top 5 factors influencing b2b sales lead generation. A potential lead will also take a look at what you’re saying on social media. There are way too many examples of companies losing bundles of customers because of a mistake on social media (talk with our experts about our online reputation management services, if it should happen to you).
A carefully planned social media presence that still lets individuality and human-ness shine through is the best way to convince site visitors that there’s a human behind every interaction. (Nobody likes robots THAT much.) They’ll have a look at how you interact with followers, how fast you answer to mentions, questions and inquiries, and check out the content you share.
As in the factor above, make sure that your social media presence contributes to your reputation for expertise and helpfulness.
Putting it all together
All these factors will make a difference in how many online B2B sales leads you get. Having a strong digital strategy will help you figure out how to put these pieces together to increase your leads, conversions and sales.
Need Help Implementing the Top 5 Factors Influencing B2B Sales Lead Generation?
Want more details about how you can make your website more effective? Contact the digital marketing experts at Stikky Media to help you convert more online visitors into sales.
Photo by Flazingo.com
I’m going to make a confession I never would have before: I’m starting to really, really love reports. I was never a numbers girl; I’ve always emulated the best B2B content marketers happy to highlight the benefits and beauty of words over numbers (forgive me, math people! numbers are beautiful too!). But now, I can’t get enough of numbers, percentages and graphs!
So it was with… unusual joy that I perused a new report, the B2B Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. Following the recent publication of Hubspot’s State of Inbound, I thought this report provided a great counterpoint and some interesting supplementary data.
I’ll be honest right from the start: landing pages, these essential elements of inbound marketing, are difficult to get right, at least in the beginning. You’re used to filling them up yourself when you see a great offer on the internet, but when it comes to doing it for your business, it’s really not that simple. However, the new rules of digital marketing say that landing pages are one of the foundations of effective inbound marketing, so if you do inbound, landing pages are a must.
Landing pages need a special recipe to convert clicks into leads… but what are the secret ingredients?
Landing page secret #1: A really great offer
Don’t just use a landing page for anything. People are getting savvy with their email addresses, and they don’t share it willingly unless there’s something truly amazing at the other end. Whether it’s a really interesting free ebook (and when I say interesting, I mean unique, with new information or a perspective you don’t find anywhere else) or a free consultation, there needs to be something worthy coming to your visitors in exchange for access to their mailbox.
Here are a few ideas for great offers that your target audience won’t be able to resist:
- eBook answering a common question, or one that your audience didn’t know it had
- Subscription to an exclusive newsletter
- A free, focused consultation with you over the phone
- A free personalized report or evaluation
There are plenty of things you can do with just these four ideas, and each can target a different persona or sales funnel position. If your offer is really great and targets the specific needs of your audience, you’ll have a better chance of converting.
Landing page secret #2: Tight, convincing copy
Here’s the difficult part for most businesses who want to do inbound: the landing page copy. It’s not a blog post or a sales page; it’s not an email or a static web page. A landing page is an entity of its own, with its own copywriting needs.
Here’s a little model we’ve developed to help you write your landing page copy.
The first paragraph should describe the problem in a sympathetic way. Questions that make your audience nod in agreement are great, or even a little story (2-3 sentences) of someone with a similar problem.
The second paragraph introduces the offer and its benefits. Say what you’re going to deliver and why it matters that your audience ask for the offer right away. This is the perfect time to use bullet points to list the benefits of your offer.
The third paragrah reiterates the offer and explains why it’s different from similar ones offered by other companies.
The final line prompts your visitor to action. Use call-to-action strategies to get them to sign up.
Follow the example of landing pages that convinced you; if they worked on you, the model is likely to work on other people too. Just make sure to personalize using the vocabulary and tone that your target audience finds attractive.
Landing page secret #3: Catchy design
So you’ve got your offer and great copy. But if you page looks boring, it’s likely that people are going to take the offer from the page that is more visually attractive.
Use your company’s colors for visual consistency, but don’t be afraid of bold headings, punchy headers and colored buttons. Changing the size and font of your text when appropriate can help keep the audience’s attention.
Again, look at the design of those landing pages that converted you. What are they doing with space, colors and shapes? How does it attract your eye to the form? Taking a moment to analyze what works will help you reproduce it in your own landing pages.
Landing page secret #4: Social proof
When it comes to accepting offers, people like to know that others have tried it and have been satisfied. Whether it’s a ticker with the number of downloads for eBooks or testimonials from consultation clients, it’s reassuring to know that you’re not getting an untested product.
Of course, it’s hard to get social proof when you’re just starting out. A low number (under 1000) can actually become negative social proof, so don’t use it unless your download or subscribe count is high. As for testimonials, one is good, but several is better, so again I would hold off until you have at least 4 or 5.
Landing page secret #5: A good broadcasting strategy
Now that you have your landing page, the only thing missing is visitors. To get people to see it, you need some kind of sharing and broadcasting strategy. You can drive traffic to your page through:
- Social media
- Press releases
- Links from your blog posts
- Links from guest blog posts on other sites
- Website calls-to-action
- Email promotions
Vary your message according to the audience segment you want to reach, especially on social media. Use lists and your personas to choose the right words for each target audience.
What’s your landing page secret? What have you done that worked really well? Share your successful landing page techniques with our readers in the comments!
Content this, content that, content here, content there: content is everywhere. I've made my argument elsewhere that it's an important part of your digital strategy, no matter your business size or type. And in order to reach your marketing and sales objectives, your content must be excellent. But I realized something lately: that lots of people don't really understand what excellent content means, or how to reach that level of quality. The web is clogged with sub-par, badly written, uninteresting, plagiarized and useless content.
Quality content isn't that difficult, but it requires a bit of thought, lots of practice and some advice from colleagues, clients and friends. Over the years, I've developed a not-so-secret method for excellent content and I'm going to share it with you today.
Step 1: Determine your audience
This advice is actually contrary to a lot of what you'll read on the internet. You'll often hear "start with your passion!" or "write for yourself!" Although it's good advice for writing in general, when producing content for business, the roles are reversed. You're not writing to express yourself through art; you're here to inform, convince or entertain. If you don't know who you're talking to, at least in general terms, your content can easily miss the mark.
Let's use an example. If you are in the beauty business, your audience is probably women. A blog post about beauty trends for men is not likely to interest them… unless it's about how to get their boyfriends and husbands to adopt a beauty routine. One topic has many different angles, which may suit different audiences. It's a bit how we convince our boss to adopt a new technology vs. how we tell our employees of the upcoming technology change.
In rhetorical terms, this is called audience analysis, and it is the first step for any business document, including business blog posts.
Step 2: Look at yourself
Who are you? What are you values, your goals, your aspirations? What fascinates and interests you? Who do you look up to? Who inspires you? Gathering momentum from myself is the way I start every piece of content. If I have already chosen a topic, I will do an inventory of my knowledge about it. What do I know about this? What do I not know? What are my questions and assumptions about this topic?
This section will often take the form of notes, especially if this is a new topic for me or if it's a longer, research-based document. But because I'm an experienced writer, I do this part automatically for most blog posts. Beginning writers will find notes useful to get started and to structure their content.
It's also really important to determine your own perspective on a topic. It will often have an effect on the tone and overall style of the piece. If you have an unusual or polemical perspective on a well-known topic, for example, you should take it into account. For example, I have a certain attitude towards SEO, and I'm not shy about it. But I'm honest and I can defend this opinion–and hopefully change other people's too.
Step 3: Look at others
Nobody knows everything about everything. Even in subject matters where we are experts, there's always something new to learn (or so I hope!) Looking at what others are saying about your topic is an important part of getting excellent content out there. You don't want to repeat what's already been said: you want a new perspective, a fresh take, a second opinion. (See step 2.) This step also involves doing factual research to support your claims (like statistics) and to fill gaps in your knowledge.
In rhetorical terms, this is called context analysis. You need to know in what context your content will be consumed to position it properly within that context.
Step 4: Choose a goal
Now that you know who you're writing to, what you're going to talk about and what other people are saying, you need to decide to what purpose you are writing. Are you writing to inform? Keep your tone neutral and factual. Are you expressing an opinion? Use a personal style and argumentation techniques. Are you trying to entertain? Humour and a lighthearted language will work well. Your purpose in writing will dictate the language, format and flow of your piece.
For example, this is an informative piece. The flow is logical and has a step-by-step format. My post on sexualized social media ads was meant to be persuasive: I wanted to convince you to avoid using these types of ads on Facebook. The piece follows the typical nuanced opinion format and there's more of my personal voice into it.
Your goal is at the heart of the language, formatting and style choices you will make for your piece.
Step 5: Sit down and write
This is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest part of producing excellent content. Especially for beginning writers, the fear of the blank page and a lack of confidence can defeat even the most determined. But if you're a business, it needs to be done. So there's no good reason to fret, delay and procrastinate. The writing will only be finished if you start it.
There are many techniques that writers use to get their writing done. Here are a few:
Build a routine
Program email/phone reminders
Go to a quiet place
When you start writing more frequently, you'll figure out the routine or motivation techniques that work best for you. The secret? Don't give up, experiment and keep notes about your writing efficiency.
Step 6: Revise
Your writing doesn't have to be perfect on the first draft. I repeat: your writing doesn't have to be perfect on the first draft. Revision is just as important to writing as knowing your audience, getting ideas and writing the first draft. Think of revision as a way to "re-envision" your content with fresh eyes.
Revision isn't just proofreading. Revision means being open to rewriting, restructuring and sometimes completely changing a piece. This is why getting plenty of time to write helps: you have time to let your piece rest before going back to it.
Step 7: Get an outside opinion
Sharing your writing with colleagues before publication will help you notice things you might not have during the revision phase. Writers tend to get really close to their own writing, and it's easy to overlook things like assumptions, faulty logic, red herrings and other rhetorical mistakes. Before you hit "Publish", make sure to have at least one or two people read through your content.
Of course, your beta readers will also note grammatical and spelling errors that you might have missed. It's okay; everyone makes these errors. As long as you correct them before publishing, nobody will ever know!
You're ready to write!
Here it is. Producing excellent content isn't magic or rocket science; it's applying a workable, efficient writing process every time you sit down to write.
This process is just a model; you can change it and add or remove some steps as you wish. Some people prefer to share their content earlier in the process to get feedback as they compose; others would rather show the most polished writing they can manage.
How about you? How do you approach business writing or content production tasks? Share you own process with our community!
It's no secret that content is key when marketing yourself online—and not just any content, either. Website owners, for better or worse, need to create genuinely good writing that potential customers will actually want to read. But it's not enough to have good ideas; you're far more likely to find success if your writing is technically strong. The lack of active voice in writing is one of the most common problems people face; they are easily confused about what it is and why it makes their writing far more effective than the passive voice. By trying to use active voice whenever possible, content creators can bring passion, authority, and interest to their work—and readers will notice.
Subjects, Objects, and Verbs, Oh My!
In order to explain what the passive and active voices are, it's time for a quick grammar refresher course. There are three components to a basic sentence: the subject, the verb, and the object. The subject of the sentence is the person or being who performs the action, or verb, upon the object. For instance, in the sentence “Brian threw the ball,” Brian is the subject; he performs the throwing action on the object, the ball. Descriptive adjectives may get thrown in there, of course; multi-part compound sentences will introduce more information and there are various verb tenses to contend with, but at the end of the day the subject, verb, and object remain the pillars of basic writing.
A sentence like “Brian threw the ball” describes the subject performing a verb action upon the object; this is active voice in action. Passive voice, on the other hand, reverses things around: “The ball was thrown by Brian.” In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon, instead of doing the acting. In the example above, the subject of the sentence is now the ball, not Brian; it's not actively performing the verb, but instead is being passively acted upon by the object of the sentence (Brian).
If you compare the two examples, some key differences immediately stand out. The active voice sentence is concise and clear, whereas the passive voice example uses more words and describes the scene in a more roundabout way. Instead of one verb—'to throw'—the passive sentence contains two: to throw, and “was”—a form of the verb 'to be'. Good writing uses precisely as many words as are necessary to communicate its information; passive sentences quickly become unwieldy and it's very easy for readers to get confused. Furthermore, the passive voice takes a lot of power away from you, the writer; when subjects are being acted upon, instead of acting, then your writing does not have the energy and passion that is absolutely essential for good marketing content.
Transforming Your Writing
Using the active voice in writing—especially when related to business or trying to communicate with potential customers—will improve readability and engagement. If you're new to content creation, try going through some of your already-published pieces and look for the passive voice. Some people feel that passive voice makes them sound smarter, so it pops up a lot in business writing. It won't be as simple as balls being thrown; you may realize you've written something like this:
“Our product has been purchased by over 3,000 customers”
While it's exciting that you've seen so many sales, changing this sentence to the active voice turns it into this:
“Over 3,000 customers have purchased our product”
This version puts the power back with the customers—and potential new ones will respond to it.
Of course, the English language is a frustrating beast, so there are situations where the passive voice can work in your writing. However, they are exceptions rather than the rule; you should aim for the active voice whenever possible. Your writing will exude more passion and be far more exciting to read; and when you're aiming to add to your customer base, you want your call to action to be active!
The worst piece of writing advice I ever received? Write like you talk.
If you’ve ever eavesdropped on a conversation, you know that our verbal culture is an editor’s worst nightmare. Saturated with rotten grammar, half-baked ideas and a disturbing amount of likes, ums and y’knows, human speech isn’t exactly made for readability.
At WordCamp Victoria a couple of weeks ago, I attended a session led by Beth Cougler Blom on the topic of Genuine Blogging. She touched on some pretty serious issues regarding the personal nature of blogging, including the fears, the challenges and the consequences that bloggers have to face every day.
I know why you’re reading this sentence.
It’s short, it’s sassy and it’s surrounded by oodles of white space. It also got your attention, which is something I have to work hard to hold on to.