Ah, lead generation. The generation of those pesky old leads. It’s the age-old dichotomy that is both the cause of and solution to most of your problems as a B2B marketer.
Some would have you believe lead gen’s easy (and they’ll tell you how easy it is to get any numpty to buy anything once you’ve paid £497 for their online course). But in the real world where we’re not all “growth hackers” and “social selling Jedi” there is no silver bullet for lead gen.
It’s a process of continual experimentation, iteration, failure, and occasional success to get to a point where you understand what works for your business.
But a lot of what gets talked about with lead gen is purely tactical. Email, LinkedIn, webinars, events, etc. These are the mechanisms for doing lead gen; “How” you do it.
Which is really the last piece you slot in place if you want to build yourself a lead gen machine.
To build yourself a fully functioning, top-spec, all-singing, all-dancing lead gen machine you first need to nail three things:
1) The Point
2) The Players
3) Your Messages
We’re not going to leave you hanging and end the blog there though. Far from it. We’ll unpick each of these below and help guide you through the meccano/lego/k’nex (delete as appropriate for your age) set that is building your lead gen machine.
Well, duh?! Clearly the point of lead generation campaigns is to generate some leads.
Yes, of course. But how many leads do you need to generate? Of what quality? And for what solution/service/proposition?
And what’s the big ask from your business – What’s the revenue target that needs to be hit by when? What’s a lead worth to your business? How much should you spend to generate a lead? How many of your leads currently turn into opportunities? And how many of those opportunities currently turn into actual business?
How much is a new piece of business worth (on average) anyway? And how long does it normally take for a lead to make its way successfully through the sales process and turn into business?
That’s a lot of questions, right?
Well, your lead generation machine needs to be built with consideration given to the ACCURATE answers to all of these questions (and probably a few more beside) to be in with any chance of delivering any sort of decent ROI.
You do need to be creative with how you approach your lead gen (we’ll come on to that with “Your Messages”) but at the end of the day lead gen is a numbers game. So, you need to be absolutely clear on what those numbers are to help you properly build, track, report on, and ultimately PROVE what your lead gen efforts deliver (or not).
So, step 1. Get your house in order by understanding ‘The Point’ behind your lead gen activity. That way you’ll have your machine built with a solid frame that means you can then steer it in the right direction…
With anything your business does there will be multiple individuals or groups of people, both internal and external that you’ll want to influence or will have some sort of influence over what you do.
And when it comes to lead gen those key players are your prospects. Those elusive target customers.
But 9 times out of 10 if you ask a Sales Director or CEO who they think you should be targeting to generate leads, who your target customer is they’ll give you a sector and some sort of numerical qualifier:
Something like “We want to target financial services companies who’ve got at least 500 end users”.
Which is a fair ask, but impossible to deliver. Why? Because companies don’t just float around buying products/service and signing deals. People do.
You need to understand who the individuals are within those target organisations with the decision-making power (or at least influence) and how you tailor your marketing to them.
The best way to do this is to build personas for those ‘players’ that you want to target. Now, clearly everyone is an individual so you can never be 100% accurate unless you interview each person on a 1-2-1 basis, but you can at least build a rough idea of who these decision making peeps will be as a tribe or collective.
We’ve created a handy template for building target personas which you can download here. Feel free to use this as your heart desires. You’ll see it focuses on understanding the players you want to target on three levels;
We’ll all know this one. It’s those things you can use to group people that change slowly over time (or not at all); Age, Gender, Education, Location, Marital Status, Family, Income level, etc.
A word we made up, but it sounds good doesn’t it? Derived from ‘Ergon’ which is the ancient Greek word for ‘work’. It’s those things that characterise someone’s role and the job they have; Level of Seniority, Number of Direct Reports, Areas of responsibility, Likely challenges, Likely budget responsibility, Role specific media/groups, Office location(s), all that kind of stuff.
The next level stuff; how someone thinks. Cleary impossible to get 100% accurate without strapping someone in an MRI machine (and even then, it’s not possible to understand WHAT someone’s thinking). But based on the Demo and Ergographics as well as getting close to individuals like your target players, you can pull together an educated guess. This is things like: Rational wants and needs, Emotional wants and needs, personality type, reward/recognition preferences, preferred media type, preferred media channels, etc.
With ‘The Players’ you want to target identified and a clear understanding of ‘The Point’ of your lead gen activity you can then move on to what you’re going to say to these players. Your messages…
If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard a B2B Marketer say “oh, we know our data’s rubbish” I would need many belts because my jeans would keep falling down due to all the pound coins in my pockets.
It’s used as an excuse time and time again, and it’s a poor one. There are numerous ways you can source, clean and build your data to create useful, usable lists for campaign activity. If you know something’s rubbish, change it. Don’t use it as an excuse.
If only this was as easy as shouting “Buy our stuff! Buy it now!!” at people and they did just that.
Maybe that’d work if you’ve perfected an alchemy machine that turns rocks into gold, or a new pharmaceutical that cures all diseases, but in B2B land we’ve not really got anything quite as incredible or exciting we want people to be interested in. Suppose it depends on how thrilling you find network security solutions or systems integration though?
When we’re dealing with a complex sell that can take weeks or months to come to fruition lead gen messaging needs to communicate the value of what you do as a means to addresses the challenges, needs, and wants your target players have.
This all ties back to effectively articulating the value you provide. NB. We delve into in another of our blogs “Did you know there are only 3 types of value?”.
So, once you understand the challenges your target players are having and how you can provide value to help them address or maybe even solve said challenges, building your messages will be a piece of cake, right?
This is where creativity and the ability to evoke a response comes to the fore. Bland statements along the lines of “we get you, here’s how we can help” will probably fall flat. Yes, that’s what you’re aiming for in a general sense, but you need to make your messages pop, sing, and zing so they “resonate” (to use marketing jargon) with your target players and cause them to respond how you want them to.
And a word of warning here too. When you’re building your messaging DON’T EVEN THINK about the mechanism (channel, tactic, whatever you want to call it) you’re going to use to deliver it. You need to build brilliant messaging first THEN work out which mechanism is best to use. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to do email/social/direct mail or whatever just because you’ve got it there to use.
Build your messages, understand your players, and know what you need to deliver first. That will all then inform the best channel or mechanism for you to use.
That’s entirely down to all the work you’ve done defining The Point, The Players you want to target, and Your Messages for your lead gen. Let that guide you as to what will work best.
Yes, we could give you the low down on all the channels and tactics you’ve got available and what they do and blah, blah, blah… But it would the longest more waffling blog post ever, so that’s not going to happen.
One thing we will say is don’t be afraid to try new options and tactics. If you keep doing the same things you’ve always done, you’ll get the same results you’ve always got. So why not mix things up and experiment. You might uncover something incredible that jet propels your lead gen and makes you look like a superstar.
If you’re looking for some options you could always check out another of our lead gen focused blogs “How To: Generate Leads for your B2B Tech business (whilst events are a no-go)”, which delves into the channels you can use when you can’t use events.
Has all of this completely blown your mind? Has it made you think about lead gen in a completely different way? Or has it made you question what on earths been going on in your business up until this point if this stuff hasn’t been happening?
Then you should really drop us a line. We love talking about this stuff. But even more than talking about it we love working with clients to take their lead gen to new levels. Let’s have a chat.