You’ve worked out your B2B strategy to generate prospects for your very ambitious sales quota. You have worked with your sales team to identify the ideal candidates for your company’s products and services. You’ve researched the key buying decision-makers and influencers on the buying committee. There was a time when the next step would clearly have been to spend half your marketing budget on a few key shows for your industry—with pre-show mail, email, booth design and tchotchkes to beg, cajole, and entice these juicy potential buyers to visit your show booth, meet with your sales teams, and engage with your show microsites. Timing was a given. Prospects were at the show to shop, and your team was there to sell. And the power of those face-to-face encounters vaulted over several steps in the sales process of converting a prospect to a warm lead. That was then.
This is now. 2021. Almost post-COVID. This year has changed almost everything about the sales process in business-to-business. Prospecting – and its timing – is particularly challenging, without chance meetings at trade shows, networking events and introductions to your customer’s teammates from other departments when you’re on site for a sales or service call. Now we have “virtual” shows, with “virtual prospects” attending, and salespeople are having Zoom conversations with “virtual opportunities” that often never emerge from the shadow world to become real. So what now?
Let’s review a few of our outbound B2B marketing tools.
The pandemic accelerated omnichannel marketing. B2B prospects shifted even farther toward the self-service channel when researching and evaluating solutions…even ordering. So it’s important for marketers to keep their messaging in front of buyers as they’re in the purchase window. Assuming your digital search strategy is sound and does a good job of getting your company found, let’s turn to outbound tools for prospecting.
We have, of course, email. Email is a wonderful thing, but like guests after a few days, the glamour tends to wear off. Be mindful of not overloading your prospects through this channel at the risk of a requested unsubscribe, or a move to the Junk folder. Look for ways to integrate a human touch through personalization, embedded videos and the like.
So then there’s social media, where content is king, and if you are successful at posting truly valuable insight in your blog, you have thought leaders contributing to your Twitter feed, and you are regularly posting on LinkedIn, you are doing what you can—which may not be enough to reach your sales quota of SQL leads.
And there’s high-impact direct mail, which requires quick follow-up via phone/virtual meetings to be effective, and here’s the thing—if the list and the offer are right and the creative is compelling, is probably the next best thing to a show attendee—without the essential element of a timed event.
Timing is the key to the effectiveness of direct mail and email, and the reason that a lot of prospect list providers these days are selling “surge data,” or “intent data,” or “engagement” data. These list enhancements do provide a greater concentration of companies who are inferred to be in the market for a product/service like yours—they could easily be further along the buying continuum than you are used to. Using intent data tools allows you to make inferences about what content offers should be presented and when.
Today’s buyer has done the research. Believe it.
Let’s assume, as research has validated, that 75% of the buyer’s research has already been completed by the time the salesperson gets a nibble. So the prospect knows some things but may not know everything you want him/her to know.
They are informed buyers, smart buyers, and they may well have already made up their minds about your product without your having had a chance to explain its benefits. And based on which of your social and web channels they have accessed, they might not walk away with enough of your story to let you in the consideration set.
If they’re in this stage of buying you may have to jolt them out of it, and that could mean a serious shift in your content strategy and when it is implemented. Because it’s so easy these days to do your product research online, your prospects may have come very close to a vendor selection before you’ve had a chance to present your case. You need content that would sway a decision maker to consider (or re-consider) your product or service. You may have to go in with the big guns—your senior management to theirs—you may have to talk “deal” before they move on to work with a competitor.