Generating leads and building future sales pipelines is painfully difficult in the life sciences B2B sector. Attracting new leads, never mind quality leads, and converting them into paying customers, demands skill, perseverance and consistent execution.
In the good old days, companies mostly relied on traditional business development methods, centred on personal relationships, to generate leads or upsell to existing customers. As information has become more widely available online, buyers increasingly prefer to do their own research before contacting a company’s sales department.
Smart marketers are now focussing on getting found through educative marketing communications; by using digital channels to firstly attract prospects and building relationships from then on using a broad mix of marketing activities.
Here are seven simple tactics that your company can implement right away to increase engagement with online prospects, boost quality of leads and build healthy sales pipelines:
1. Start by reviewing your marketing strategy
An up-to-date marketing strategy underpins successful B2B marketing efforts. It your blueprint on how your company plans to communicate its value proposition to the target audience and win their business. A winning marketing strategy has three key features: Brand Identity, Market Positioning and Routes to Market, and the Marketing Plan (objectives, budget & tools).
Just like no military commander worth his salt goes into battle without a clear strategy, your first step is to appraise your marketing strategy and establish its fit for you and your customer segment(s)? There are four key criteria on which to base an answer: consistency with corporate goals and the marketplace; alignment with available resources (money & staff); time (i.e when the goals are to be achieved), and past evidence of success.
A validated marketing strategy will ensure your help ensure your value proposition resonates with customers and assures them that they have found the company with the solutions they seek. This will help drive sales growth, profit, or whatever other objectives you’re seeking. On the contrary, a lack of or an inappropriate strategy will not only will fail to yield benefits, but also may result in disaster.
2. Create Value-Adding Content
Within the life sciences B2B sector, quality technical content is the bedrock of effective marketing communications. Developing and distributing quality, relevant and value-adding information helps you attract, inform and engage your target niche.
Do this well and you will be able to communicate your company’s unique value proposition, capture prospects early on, and trigger purchasing action at a much lower cost.
But there’s more to content. It will help show off your mastery and positions you as a leader in your field. And provided it is regular, it will help keep your website feeling fresh and aid your SEO efforts.
So how do you go about developing quality content? Start with a content marketing plan. Such a plan charts your content creation and distribution agenda, outlines the set of actions as well as the means for achieving specified end goals.
There are four simple features that make your content truly value-adding: it should demonstrates expertise, it is educative (i.e imparts knowledge, skills and competencies to allow customers be more knowledgeable purchasers); it has practical value; and finally, is newsworthy so that customers can share it with others.
Delivering more value to your customers requires that you broaden the types of content you create. The idea here is to provide content top, middle and bottom of the sales funnel that is relevant, helpful, informative, and entertaining–not an overt sales pitch.
The final aspect in the creation of value-adding content is alignment. Alignment matters greatly because customers go through various stages in their purchasing journey: gathering information, identifying alternatives, weighing evidence, evaluating alternatives, sampling, regulatory reviews and pricing. By tailoring content – not just the types but message, you are aiding their decision-making and improving the chances of winning their trust.
Here below is a guide on what content might be required when:
3. Collect data on leads
For all businesses, understanding the story behind your prospects and using metrics to make data-driven decisions is critical to ensuring the firm’s financial health remains tiptop. Marketing metrics are especially important for generating information to improve effectiveness of marketing campaigns and overall RoI.
This is why you should aim to probe leads that enter into your marketing funnel and classify them by the degree willingness and readiness to buy from you. Do this well and you will make an important distinction: which leads are hot, warm, and cold.
While there are several frameworks to assist with qualifying prospects, a favourite of mine is GPCTBA/C&I frame work (developed by HubSpot), standing for Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Negative Consequences and Positive Implications. The idea is to use these as criteria to score every lead so that you can allocate the right amount of time to the right activities. This way, you’ll ensure the right use of your time and resources so you don’t miss out on opportunities.
A simple way is to start with lead qualification is to use site analytics. Site analytics allow you to track, among other things, who your visitors are, where they come from and where they go afterwards. All this is useful for measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and the performance of your website or its tools.
Another data collection is to add simple forms to content or sample request widgets which will enable you to establish whether the person is an influencer within the company or not. You can then match them to the level of support appropriate with the opportunity’s potential.
Below is a simple lead scoring template (20-25 points – a hot lead; 13-19 points – a warm lead; 7-12 points – a cold lead; and 5-6 – a prospect or a disqualified lead):
4. Optimize Website Design
Studies have, time and time again, shown that a company’s website is its indisputable lead generation channel. Yet countless companies do nothing to optimise their websites.
Even today, many companies still hire web designers whose sole brief is to project a good corporate image. Such ‘brochure’ website do very little as lead generation tools, denying you the opportunity to use a websites to convert visitors into leads and customers.
As B2B buyers today are already more than two thirds through the buying journey before even reaching out to a vendor, you cannot afford to take any chances. Your website should not just be attractive and well written but should also be well thought through. Visitors’ impression of it will form an impression of what it may be like working with you.
The two most important features behind highly successful lead generation websites are having a clear purpose and a focus on usability and usability:
a). Website purpose
Your website should have a clear purpose and defined goal as this determines what it does and how it operates. For instance, if the purpose is to drive B2B leads, then having different landing pages, educational content and tools and apps that add value to a visitor’s work are essential. It should also have ways to encourage visitors to interact with your brand or leave their details for subsequent follow-up.
If your website is just a fancy version of your corporate brochure and yet you expect it to drive sales then it is time to go back to the website designer.
b). Focus on users rather than the company
Your website needs to be designed in a way that places visitors at its centre, not the company. It frustrates me a great deal when I visit a website for information on a solution only to find drab about how great the company is on this and that while offering no functionality, no contact forms and no calls to action.
Visitor-centred websites focus on increase the usefulness and usability – emphasising the human interactive aspects, user attitudes and expectations rather than something that looks great but ultimately adds meaningful value to the visitor’s needs.
5. Get more with marketing automation
Marketing automation refers to a variety of tools and technologies used to automate many repetitive but crucial tasks such as emails, social media, analytics, and several website actions.
Traditionally the preserve of large corporations, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up the largest growing user segment of marketing automation today.
A key value of marketing automation software is its ability to connect with CRM to automatically send highly targeted and personalized marketing communications to leads, thereby ensuring that relevant and timely content is delivered to the right prospects.
Companies that have embraced marketing automation report three main benefits: healthier sales pipelines, higher sales productivity, and increased revenues. This is because sales and marketing teams are able to work as a cohesive team to enhance lead generation, qualification and closing.
6. Engage prospects in real time through website chat
Web chat is a system that allows website visitors to communicate in real time using easily accessible web interfaces. It is a fantastic way for companies to reach out to their online visitors and communicate directly with them without recourse to email or telephone calls.
Kissmetrics summaries several benefits of web chat-based lead generation in their blog “5 Reasons Why Live Chat is The Untapped Potential for Your Business” with the following interesting stats:
- 44% of online consumers say having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.
- 63% said they are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat.
- 38% said they had made their purchase due to the chat session itself.
- 62% reported being more likely to purchase from the site again.
It has been found that websites that implement web chat have:
- Reduced bounce rate
- Better customer service
- Increased conversions and sales
- Ability to build customer trust and loyalty
- Cost effectiveness
Most web chat programs also offer reporting capabilities meaning that companies are able to gather valuable data on visitors and feed these data to the sales team.
Adding a live chat option to your website will transform the way you generate leads. So rather than hoping that visitors will leave their details, you can make the first step to contact them and meet their needs there and then. What a great idea!
7. Harness the magic of experiential marketing
To be frank trade shows are expensive and their RoI is at best suspect. I am sure you’ve heard it before how trade shows and similar events are expensive, disrupt regular business, are exhausting, and don’t generate real leads, etc. It’s almost become fashionable to jump on this trade show bashing bandwagon, and in the process, discredit the value eventing in marketing.
Yet the reality could not be further from this. Even in this digital obsessed world we’re in today, eventing and experiential remain one of the best ways to generate quality leads. According to The Content Marketing Institute, 75% of B2B marketers list in-person events as their top marketing tactic, above blogging and social media.
The reason for this is that real-life experiences tend to be more engaging and can shape customer memories much more profoundly than anything else. The personal touch and engagement factor of events are impossible to replicate.
So if event and experiential marketing are not already part of your marketing toolbox, the time is now to embrace them. As long as they are memorable experiences, people will come and your business will live long in the memory.
Lead generation is not at all easy but so vitally important for the survival of any business. Frequently, strategies that worked in the previous year may no longer deliver optimal results in the future. As marketers, it is incumbent upon us to continually fine tune our strategies to make them more relevant to changing times.
The tactics I have reviewed above have worked for several companies. However, they are by no means a panacea for all ills, as the effectiveness of any given strategy will vary from company to company and segment to segment.
What other lead generation tactics have worked for you? Share your case experiences.