Lead gen in 2021: The Secret to using Online Content to Grow your Tech Business [Guest Blog]
Modern B2B buyers have more power and autonomy than ever before. Sean Linehan discusses how online content can help sales engage with buyers across the funnel.
Published: 13 Jan 2021
6 minutes read
B2B Lead generation has never been easy. It’s the same with selling in the B2B environment, multiple offerings which often look and feel the same with teams of salespeople calling, mailing and following up. That’s how it’s always been I hear you say. Well you’d be right. Except in 2020, things changed and will likely change again as the buyer now has so much data at their fingertips. They can perform competitive analysis on your products and services, often without you even knowing about it. This buyer-led research period and subsequent lack of visibility you have belies the speed with which prospects can progress down your funnel.
The acceleration of the discovery phase in product selection has the ability to catch sales teams off guard as they feel the need to have built a relationship and had the chance to qualify the level of interest before adding the new sales opportunity to their pipeline. The buyer on the other hand knows that it’s their buying process which matters most and not that of the selling organisation, much as they will tell you otherwise!
The main drivers
Amongst the many societal changes such as the wholesale adoption of the internet as a buyer’s primary research tool and our desire to better informed, we see 3 key things which have driven the change and acceleration;
- Cloud storage
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Ease of search
Not so long ago B2B buyers when considering a new software solution would have to consider physical hardware storage, the software itself, delivery and implementation services and follow on support and maintenance. They would have to initiate multiple discussions with sales and technical teams from many organisations. This took time to organise and would elongate the buying cycle, frustrating sales teams with seemingly endless rounds of validation and qualification to ensure they were in consideration for the purchase.
The advance of cloud storage and SaaS have removed significant time in the decision making timeline as providers have a menu pricing approach and the elasticity of the offering means scaling up or down quickly can be achieved, often with little impact in costs. SaaS offerings come in pre-configured offerings with modifications being easy to apply or not needed as buying organisations adopt as-is solutions. This latter point was made easier due to the significant investment in research and development of their offerings. Think for a moment here about the billions of US dollars it has invested in the Dynamics 365 F&O + SCM offerings. These solutions are increasingly becoming ready to adopt with minimal customisation.
So why am I telling you about this? Well if you are offering a B2B solution and have a sales team you’ll likely already be feeling the impact of the above, moreover your sales people may not be as digitally savvy as perhaps they could be. Bold statement I know but I’ve witnessed first hand just how many sales leaders and members of their teams who have no real understanding of this new buying paradigm. They struggle to maintain an accurate and deliverable forecast and often find they do not have enough leads at the various stages of the pipeline as they would to achieve their quotas.
How do you then align sales with the modern buyer?
Your company and its products and services must first be easy to find, you then must have something interesting to say and then have multiple items for download to support your new prospect as they conduct their information gathering. The Author and serial entrepreneur, Daniel Priestley, maintains that 7-11-4 are 3 of the most important metrics to support this new approach to lead generation and to helping qualified buyers find your products and services quickly. Having put this to the test on numerous occasions I happen to agree.
So, what is 7-11-4, why is it important and what does it relate to. Let's explore what each number means and why they’re important;
7 hours of content. Think about that for a while, do you have 7 hours of content available for your prospects to read, watch or listen to about your products and how they solve your prospects business challenges? Do you have loads of customer case studies to read or watch as they discuss your company and it’s approach to having solved their problems? Can your prospects immerse themselves in interesting content as they validate their needs and your ability to service them? Have you published a physical book or an eBook which customers can download and share with others in their buying organisation? Do you have 7 hours of content available and is it easily accessible? ...which leads us to the next metric.
11 touch points. Think about your digital presence and the many touch points your prospects and customers can find about your products and services. Do you have short explainer videos on your YouTube channel, Blog posts on your website, Podcasts to listen to, Newsletters they might subscribe to? Spread out that 7 hours of content. It’s so easy to take one large piece of content (a video or a podcast) and transform it into blogs, social posts, and email content. Be smart and cut up that content to spread yourself out.
4 platforms. In the online world this might be your website, Facebook pages, YouTube channel, E mail and webinars you run. Offline it could be the book you have written or the events you put on each year. The key point here is to ensure you are easy to find across multiple platforms with something interesting to say.
The 7-11-4 approach isn’t a firm law. Not all buyers will read 7 hours of content across 11 touch points but it’s an interesting thought experiment to start considering the importance of inbound marketing & sales. With the modern B2B buyer so much more proactive, you have to ensure your prospects and customers with a way to engage with you, building a relationship with your company and learning more about why they should choose you over your competition.
Conduct a brief audit and ask yourself how many of the 7-11-4 do we have in place. If you want to build trust early in the buying relationship, this approach will certainly support you and your sales teams. Prospects arrive better qualified, well informed and are ready to engage in the appropriate discussion based on where they choose to engage more formally. Often you will find customers contacting you in a ready to buy state.
Achieving the above is by no means a quick fix and it does require concerted and coordinated effort. This is just a starting point, next you should consider investing in further understanding your customers. What are your ideal personas? What would their buying journey? How can you align your content with touch points and platforms which will be discovered and resonate with them?
Mastering this is difficult but it’ll help prospects to find you easily and enable you to offer them something of value at each phase of their discovery. As a result, you will secure better qualified leads and keep you ahead of your competition. Your sales people will thank you and above all you’ll have engaged customers who love working with you.
Where should you start? Conduct the audit and see just how many of the 7-11-4 you have already, look at your pipeline and analyse where exactly your customers are on their buying journey versus your sales cycle. Get some external help who will challenge the status quo and help you prepare for the change needed. Consider your CRM investments, are they supporting the buyers journey or simply data capture forms for sale people to follow up? Review the buying personas of your existing customers and your new prospects, what does this tell you? Is your narrative or story one your prospects and customers understand, does it speak to them or everyone?
Want to find out more about inbound marketing and how it could help your sales team engage better with modern buyers? Download our ‘Intro to Inbound’ eBook now.
Sean Linehan is a sales leadership consultant and coach with over 25 years experience working with tech giants including; IBM, Cognizant, Esri & Project one.
Sean's experience in data-driven sales and marketing has allowed him to support a host of scale-up and medium-sized enterprises as they seek to grow further. Starting from scratch, he's built out Europe-wide sales teams and delivered change management programmes that have turned businesses around. This cross-business expertise has allowed him to deliver enduring growth to his clients.