With the arrival of the internet and all things digital, lead generation techniques have advanced massively in recent years and this has seen the approach taken by sales and marketing teams transform from what it once was. (For more interesting reading on the history of lead generation, check out this article by Techcrunch).
Online lead generation is now firmly on the agenda for most B2B marketers – and with good reason. According to the annual IAB / PwC Value of the Online Performance Marketing Industry study, in 2014, online lead generation accounted for £1 billion worth of sales via 30 million leads generated and returning an average ROI of £8 for every £1 spent. Fast forward 5 years and online lead gen is even bigger.
For B2Bs, getting to grips with the latest digital tools that can help maximize their impact and potential returns, remains a top priority. But what does the future hold for lead generation models and technologies? And what are the key trends to be aware of?
Online lead generation
In the past, B2Bs would traditionally have focused on cold calling contact lists, taking space at trade shows and spending lots of money on business lunches. However, the growth of the internet has spawned a new breed of tech-savvy and information-hungry buyer, meaning sales and marketing teams have had to adapt.
Buyers nowadays have access to vast amounts of information and research before they ever talk to a potential supplier. Which is why it’s so crucial that vendors are offering the right content on their websites, to ensure they are being ‘found’ at the right time.
Internet-based lead generation models used by B2Bs today usually involve some type of lead magnet – such as a piece of information in the form of a pdf that can be downloaded in exchange for an email address. This may be placed either on a company’s website, or an industry portal which will then sell this information on. After the ‘transaction’ has taken place, an email nurturing campaign will then kick in, which aims to continue the conversation and keep building on the relationship. This finally results in a lead being passed to sales for the deal to be done.
The best leads will always be the ones that are relevant, targeted and have strong potential to close as a sale. That’s why technology that can help companies differentiate more and more by factors such as demographics and interests – it’s what the future of lead generation is all about. And this is good news for sales teams, as the better qualified a lead can be, the more time they can concentrate on only the hottest, most interested leads.
Sales methods, such as account-based marketing (ABM), are also gaining in popularity as technology makes the whole process far easier; right through from identifying the right people, to contacting them and nurturing the relationship. Add social selling into the mix and it’s likely that the way a sales team now works will be very different to 10, or even five years ago.
Basically, selling is about people and building relationships, which is why in-person events and face-to-face contact remain the number one tactics used by marketers. While focusing entirely on digital may not be the answer for every B2B, it certainly deserves some attention, or you risk being left behind.
Lead Forensics has operated at the forefront of the online lead generation sector for many years, turbocharging the whole process for sellers by helping to identify companies who may potentially be interested, long before they share their contact details.
Here, we take a closer look at some of the key trends that may be on the horizon and what the future of lead generation technology may be:
Trend: customer attribution and data
Customer attribution, which is about knowing your customer and having a 360-degree view of them, is a huge growth area that has been further enhanced thanks to technology. It is now possible to segment and qualify leads more easily, as well as to monitor and see which marketing strategies may be working better than others.
Using data to truly understand a prospect has always been the holy grail for B2Bs, but the challenge comes in collecting that data, analyzing it, understanding it and knowing how to use it to enhance the sales process.
Analyzing so-called ‘big data’ is one way to go, whereby insights, trends and patterns are revealed that can help companies with decision making and strategic business moves. However, in future, this will go even further and just as much analysis will be possible on an individual.
Trend: predictive behavior and analytics
Marketing departments of the future will expertly combine human instinct with the predictive learning capabilities of digital technology. The result will be used to drive effective marketing campaigns and lead generation strategies.
There is a huge amount of information out there on each one of us – far too much for any person to work their way through. The only way to go through the vast amount of data we generate every day and to correctly identify trends, correlations and patterns, is to use technology. These insights can then be used by marketing teams in several ways, such as putting together buyer personas and having detailed buyer journey mapped content.
Systems will continue getting smarter at pulling information together from the various sources that collect it and the analysis will be even more sophisticated. One day your website may automatically know where a visitor works, what they do and whether they’re a current customer, or where in the sales funnel they may be, before providing them with a completely personalized experience. Then keep track of their behavior and recognize the behaviors and signals that accurately predict when a lead is at the optimum stage for a sales call. Sounds good, hey.
Trend: Mobile marketing
It’s impossible to ignore mobile marketing and you do so at your own peril. Of all the trends we’ve looked at, this is the fastest-growing and most advanced of them all. Apps and tactics which are ‘mobile-first’, i.e. designed for mobile devices in the first instance, are here to stay. The question is, how well are B2B marketers already incorporating this trend into their planning?
From using mobile apps during trade shows or in-person events to using short text messaging, there are many ways businesses can profit from the mobile-first world. Most people will carry at least one mobile device with them at all time. That presents a huge opportunity for B2B marketers, who can use it to their advantage to nurture relationships and continue conversations.
A key question for teams will be whether to develop their own mobile app, or whether it will be better to use an existing one for their business model. There are loads of options available, with many more being developed all the time, so keep an eye on those developments.
We also need to give a mention to chatbots, which are computer programs that can mimic conversation and are great for distributing information. They are basically a medium for transferring messages.
In a B2B environment, they have the potential to streamline business processes – everything from lead generation to managing long sales cycles and internal comms. What we may see in the future is that instead of having to fill out a form or talk to a sales rep, lead generation and qualification could be done right from the messaging app.
While the impact and full potential of chatbots have yet to be seen in a B2B context, their popularity continues to grow. Facebook has rolled out a bot on Messenger, there’s Apple’s Siri and most of the big players are also soon to follow suit, making it an area to watch. Consumer platforms are likely to lead the way here, but as always, B2Bs should be on the lookout for any opportunities.
Ultimately, all any business ever wants is to be successful and that means landing paying customers. Digital lead generation remains a key focus for B2B marketing teams the world over and it’s possible that some big changes are on the way, so keep your eyes peeled and your mind open to new possibilities.