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When Looking for B2B Leads, Don’t Overlook Digital Marketing

June 20, 2016

by Brian Beck, SVP, eCommerce & Omni-channel Strategy

Any manufacturer, distributor, or brand serious about success knows that digital marketing plays an important role in generating leads. A lead-generating digital marketing strategy tied into a CRM system for the inside and outsides sales teams is a tremendous source of reliable income, growth, and new customer acquisition.  

When it comes to B2B firms, few things are as important as the act of generating quality leads. A survey shows that 89% of B2B marketers and sales professionals believe generating quality leads is “important” or “very important” to a company’s success.

No surprise.

Lead generation was reported to be even more important than knowing key decision makers at targeted accounts. However, only 55% of these firms reported that they were “effective” or “very effective” in finding quality leads.

There’s no one size fits all approach to digital marketing. Although the gap in digital marketing strategies between B2B and consumer-facing firms has been shrinking for years, the priorities and tactics of the two have crucial differences.

Tools for the Job

Many B2B companies feel they can do a better job in generating leads.

Some of the proven marketing channels include paid search, social media, and blogs. These channels are used to distribute rich content such as product information and industry updates. Other value-adding content like industry trends can also be shared with potential customers and can generate leads if used effectively.

The Importance of Email

Out of all the social media channels, LinkedIn is the most popular (used by 94% of B2B marketers). Twitter and Facebook followed, according to this survey. The average marketer uses six different social media platforms.

But when nurturing leads (not generating them), email marketing is by far the most important tool for manufacturers and distributors.

While these firms know how critically important nurturing leads is, many email campaigns are ineffective. Personalized and automatically triggered email campaigns are more successful than an impersonal, boilerplate approach.

To add this crucial personal touch, segment your email list. Use data such as the lead’s area of interest, stage of interest, purchase history, and other factors to figure out what’s special about your recipient. Tailor your message to their interests.

recent survey of B2B marketers showed that lead nurturing programs structured by segment deliver 10-20% higher sales than the standard batch and blast programs.

B2B vs. Retail Marketing

Lead generation is a top priority in digital marketing efforts. Retail marketers pay close attention to building email lists, but not as much as their B2B counterparts.

For many years, search engine marketing has been a primary source of new customers and growth for retailers.  B2B firms can use these tactics as well, and there are similarities when it comes to the ways retailers and B2B firms use paid search and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.  However, successful B2B marketers place a much higher emphasis on content within search campaigns.  Conveying authority within these advertising campaigns is critical for B2B effectiveness.  In addition, most B2B marketers realize a lower number of overall searches for their products within search engines, yet much higher conversion (or close) rates, due to the highly specialized nature of their products.  The net is: search marketing can be effective for B2B if well executed and focused.

Online marketplaces can be lucrative for marketers at B2B and B2C firms, but the websites will be different. While retail marketers have a number of options, B2B firms are more likely to find a customer base on sites like Amazon Business and GSA Advantage instead of eBay and Polyvore.

Putting it All Together

Generating leads through digital marketing is a tried-and-true method to support the sales staff and build a business. B2B Marketers need to more than mimic what retail marketers are doing, especially in email campaigns.

Audience segmentation and automatically triggered drip campaigns differ greatly between retail and B2B firms, so come up with a specialized approach that’s geared specifically towards nurturing your leads.

Tying this together by passing leads generated through digital marketing and the Ecommerce web site to the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system pays strong dividends.   Leading B2B companies are using these digital methods to automatically create activities through the CRM system for their inside and outside sales forces, based on product and purchase interest demonstrated by leads on the Internet.   Using this approach, the customer’s need is clear and consistently communicated, leading to more leads and higher close rates for the sales team.