Traditional marketing strategies don’t tend to translate well in the B2B environment. Batching and blasting generalised promotional content to an entire subscriber base, for example, may work for B2C companies, but in the case of B2B where the lead to conversion cycle is often long term and requires relevant targeted communications, these traditional methods are not going to offer results.
Marketing automation provides many of the answers to the unique problems of B2B lead generation and conversion.
- Long buyer’s cycle
- In comparison to the sales cycle of B2C brands, B2B sales cycles are longer, and far more intricate. This is mainly due to the difference in price tags (B2B products are much more costly) leading to leads taking a much longer time to convert.
- Marketing Automation can help to alleviate the amount of time and resources spent on the communication flows involved in a long buyer’s cycle, by putting much of the touchpoints involved on autopilot.
- Complex buyer’s journey
- B2B leads are a lot more autonomous than B2C leads. This is because they do a lot of their own research, and take a lot more time to convince to convert. This makes their journey with your brand far more complex, as the touchpoints are not just opportunities for your brand to self-promote, but are opportunities for positioning your brand in a uniquely convincing light. There is far more competition involved between B2B brands when it comes to capitalising on the buyer’s journey, and it’s for this reason that Marketing Automation tools – which help to increase relevance, and hence engagement – are a must-have for B2B brands.
- The buyer’s in the driver’s seat
- B2B prospects and leads have a lot more control than B2C ones. To make larger purchases, and on behalf of a company, B2B leads require a sense of agency, without your marketing team losing out on opportune moments to capitalise on interest and engagement. As the B2B lead is the driver, your sales efforts are in the passenger’s seat. By using marketing automation tools, your brand can meet your leads wherever they are in their buyer’s journey; giving them the agency they require, without losing the chance to market to them when they both expect and want it.
Marketing Automation platforms take B2B lead generation to a whole new level. Instead of fighting the changing tides of buyer agency and long sales cycles, a B2B brand like yours can instead leverage what you know about your lead’s journey and increase its ROI by using smarter, automated tools.
Here are some ways B2B companies can use Marketing Automation to increase Lead Generation.
Generate leads with inbound marketing
Inbound marketing is an important part of the B2B marketing strategy. With B2B buyers being more discerning buyers who take their sweet time before making a purchase, it’s important not to reel new prospects in with outbound, one-way promotional techniques alone.
Inbound marketing involves creating plenty of valuable content which gains the interest of prospects; essentially driving interested traffic towards your brand, rather than broadcasting out to a public audience and hoping for traction.
Marketing automation helps to boost inbound marketing efforts by providing email marketing tools to help deliver valuable, relevant content, to the right people at the right time.
Email as a marketing channel has an insane ROI, about 4400% to be exact. It’s for this reason that a lot of resources should be spent on perfecting your email communications. By using a Marketing Automation platform with a powerful email marketing module, you can create eNewsletters, digests, and other communications that are brimming with educational content on a niche topic on which your B2B brand can position itself as a thought leader.
Give some examples on your website of the kind of content subscribers can come to expect (perhaps on a site blog for example) and make sure to capture interested visitors wherever you can with embedded subscription forms.
Once they’re subscribed, use your marketing automation tools to deliver strong, automated email campaigns that help to move prospects along their journey.
Nurture prospects with fully automated email journeys
What do automated email campaigns look like? How can you use automated email content to build out seamless, valuable journeys?
As mentioned above, the prospect to lead to buyer journey of a B2B customer is far more complex and long term than the sales cycles of B2C clients. When touch points are carried out and measured manually in a B2B environment, it’s easy to lose track of where leads or buyers are on their journey with your brand, and thus easy to lose opportunities to capitalise on moments where conversion is the next step.
Marketing automation simplifies the entire process of building out a nurturing email journey. Email interactions can be prepared ahead of time, and can be automatically sent to the right person, at exactly the right time – without having to do any extra work beyond content creation and set up.
Prospects have to be leveraged efficiently from the moment you have them on your mailing lists. They need to be actively nurtured to become warmed up, self-qualified leads – and eventually, paying customers. That’s why having an already prepared, fully automated email sequence is a good idea. You can onboard all prospects onto an email comms journey that will effectively touch base with them along different points of their experience with your brand.
Traditionally, brands have batched and blasted to their entire contact base, usually with generalised promotional content.
With an automated email journey where new subscribers enter one end and are seamlessly communicated with in a sequence triggered by previous behaviour and interaction, you can nurture prospects, leads and customers more effectively. By sending contacts the right type of content depending on their existing relationship with your brand, you’ll be able to move buyers along the long B2B sales cycle without alienating them, or dropping them, with content irrelevant to the stage they’re currently at.
One of the best tools for building out fully prepped email journeys is email triggers.
Trigger based emails are campaigns which send to specific contacts when particular behavioural requirements are met. For example, you may send a ‘welcome’ email to onboard fresh subscribers. This campaign can be set up ahead of time, and set to ‘trigger’ (send) when a contact subscribes. Similarly, a campaign which offers special discounts or insider knowledge may be used as a reward for previously interested and engaged subscribers, and is set to ‘trigger’ when a contact has clicked on the links in the two previous email campaigns they received.
By setting up your campaigns ahead of time, you can visually build your buyer’s journey – giving you more agency over leads’ experience with your brand, without compromising their own sense of autonomy in all of it.
Improve the buyer’s journey experience by segmenting, targeting, and delivering relevance.
The content of your email journey is incredibly important. It’s one thing to regularly interact with your prospects and leads, but it’s an entirely different ball game to make sure that those interactions are specifically relevant and valuable to each individual contact.
If being relevant to upwards of 1,000 individual contacts sounds like a lot of bother – the good news is that it’s easy as pie when using a marketing automation platform.
Relevance can be automatically delivered by using automation tools such as Dynamic Content, and Personalisation.
- Enables your marketing team to create different variations of content for the one email
- Each variation of content is set up to ‘display’ or ‘hide’ depending on the behavioural or profile data of each recipient
- Each recipient will therefore receive an email custom catered to them, without your marketing team having to create multiple email campaigns
- Example: You’re inviting contacts to a workshop that you plan on running in every state. Instead of sending a generalised invite with info and registration links for each of the state’s events, you instead configure your content so that a contact will only see the links and copy relevant to the state they live in.
- Personalisation allows you to insert ‘merge fields’ in your email’s text content which will automatically populate with the unique data of each recipient.
- This is most often used for greeting recipients by their first name.
- You can use personalisation in more creative ways, to make an email campaign feel specifically sent to one individual.
- Example: for existing customers with a membership renewal date coming up, send them an email with a reminder to renew and use personalisation merge fields to refer to their unique membership ID, and membership renewal date.
Review and analyse detailed data on prospects and leads to consistently inform your strategy
Collecting and analysing data is one of the best ways to inform lead gen and sales strategies. What better way to understand your audience, and how to reach your goals, then by letting the results speak for themselves?
By using a Marketing Automation platform, with handy reporting tools, making sense of data so that it’s useful for driving strategy is incredibly straight forward.
If you’re trying to get better open rates, compare different email campaigns to see whether certain subject lines garner more opens, or whether the send time makes a big difference. If you’re looking to improve on engagement, you can use Engagement Scoring tools to see what section of your audience is most engaged versus least engaged, and even go further and segment your contacts based on their level of engagement (for specific targeting).
Not every platform has Engagement Scoring, but this is how ours (Swift Digital) works:
- You specify which behaviours and actions garner however many points (e.g. 100 points for opening an email, 1000 points for attending an event)
- As your contacts interact with your brand, their engagement score is automatically tallied by the custom points system you’ve set up.
- Contact profiles can be viewed for drilled down engagement stats, and you can easily segment your audience based on their engagement score.
- Send unengaged segmented contacts a re-engagement campaign, whilst highly engaged contacts can be targeted with rewards to help incentivise conversion.
Using automation reporting tools helps to take the pain out of understanding and using data. By using data to inform your strategy, you can generate leads and increase conversions based off of scientific fact rather than stab-in-the-dark intuition.
Lead generation, lead qualification and conversion is a much more difficult ball game for the B2B sector. This is because B2B buyers exercise agency, do their research, and require long term nurturing to eventually trust your brand and offered products/services. Generating leads and onboarding them onto a nurturing marketing strategy is far easier to execute when your company is using a marketing automation platform.
Your lead gen and conversion strategies also benefit from smart automation tools which increase relevance, and thus engagement and click throughs. In order to compete in the very competitive B2B marketplace, it’s imperative that your company consider staying up to date and using the highly evolved marketing automation tools that are now readily available.