B2B marketing in a smaller organization: How hard can it be?
All you have to do, after all, is create and capturing interest in a product or service, get interested people into the sales pipeline, and manage these prospects wisely throughout their buyer’s journeys … right?
Well, on second thought, that can be a bit of a challenge. After all, you’re dealing with a lot of ever-changing and ever-moving parts. Sometimes it’s hard to find a clear path through the chaos.
In recent years, however, lead generation and lead nurturing techniques have taken off and have led method to the madness. B2B sales and marketing teams commonly use processes that attract and identify well-qualified leads and shepherd those contacts through the buying process to a successful close. Due to the plethora of information, options, reviews, and recommendations now available online, new techniques have emerged to qualify self-directed prospects before they’re handed off to sales.
While the adoption of lead gen and management programs is increasingly mainstream and growing yearly, the practices are making the most substantial inroads among small-to-midsized companies (SMBs). Most of these businesses have enjoyed a sales boost from adopting effective techniques.
To optimize success, marketers need to communicate internally the importance of lead generation, cooperate closely with sales throughout the entire process, and generate well-qualified leads that sales can turn into revenue.
That old fly in the ointment —a lack of resources — is one major factor that holds SMB marketers back from fuller adoption of lead generation techniques and the nurturing required to hand well-prepared, strong leads off to sales. The problem is more complex than mere allocation of funds, however. For many marketers the depth and accuracy of the database are significant obstacles.
The efforts and challenges required to improve SMB lead generation processes and successes include having more (and better) content that demonstrates their company’s expertise, having a stronger website, and improving segmenting, scoring, and qualification.
Crucial methods for most effectively nurturing leads include sales calls, webinars, newsletters, thought leadership, and white papers. Marketers are now also deploying webinars to a much greater extent as a means of acquiring and nurturing leads, as well as social media, blog posts, and videos.
SMB marketers and sales teams who are intent on boosting success should undertake four key action items:
1. Integrate lead-gen techniques.
The essential integration between online and offline marketing efforts is still a work in progress for many companies. Brands face multiple marketing channels and fragmented media. Best-of-breed marketers are using automation and strategic initiatives to make sense of the confusion and gain control of their programs.
2. Work toward sales-marketing cooperation.
Too many SMBs are not working to improve cooperation between these two essential functions, and many don’t bother even trying. Those companies that encourage mutual cooperation between marketing and sales can gain significant competitive advantages. A productive lead-nurturing scheme, for example, would be sales and marketing working together to plan the timing and cadence of both sales and marketing touches within one campaign.
3. Make the most of metrics and assessment.
Successful marketers know it’s essential to use analytics, employ closed-loop analysis, calculate and show ROI, and support accountability. Basic to this effort is improving database management and data hygiene — both important elements in the lead-gen process. Also key is understanding buyer personas, the buyer’s journey, the nurturing process, engaging with buyers via multiple touch points, and defining criteria for the hand-off to sales.
4. Embrace the necessity of technology.
Marketing teams, in particular at small-to-midsized businesses, are generally as slim as their budgets. Here, technology increasingly is viewed as a necessity. Marketers can liaise with their technology vendor partners and IT colleagues to leverage the synergies that exist in technology, branding, and customer interaction.
Learn from the Big Guys, but Embrace Your Advantages
Small-to-midsized businesses sometimes contrast significantly with their enterprise-size colleagues. While these differences are often strengths for SMBs, they also indicate areas where smaller organizations can learn from large-company marketers.
- Vendors are Part of the Team.
It’s not surprising that SMB marketers view their vendor partners as extensions of their team and marketing staff. This is contingent on the professionalism of the vendor: its ability to communicate the metrics that produce strong ROI, whether it offers easy-to-use software, and how easy it is to do business with. It’s telling that the vendor is perceived as a team member —not merely a vendor.
- Let Marketing Do More Lead Qualifying.
Small to mid-size companies are much more likely than large companies to characterize a request for a sales contact as a potent criterion for a lead. This may explain why SMBs tend to rely more on the sales team versus the marketing team to qualify a lead. Relying more on the marketing function, in vigorous cooperation with sales expertise, can help SMBs better identify lead stages in order to be more competitive.
- Expand the Scope of Content.
SMBs tend to rely on case studies and anecdotes as marketing content, which then is used to engage prospects in their problem-solving process. SMBs also prefer videos and blogs for the same purpose. Expanding this to include white papers and research-based thought leadership, already used effectively by larger companies, can help establish smaller companies as category leaders, in the same vein that enterprise companies are striving to do. This could be particularly effective in the branding effort, which SMBs tend to ignore.
- Take Advantage of Your Smaller Size.
Smaller companies sometimes underestimate their competitive advantages against larger companies. While all marketers have to deal with a lack of resources, larger company marketers feel it more acutely than do SMB marketers, and also tend to be concerned about the depth and accuracy of their customer databases, poor communications between marketing and sales, and their inability to respond adequately to buyer behaviors. The SMB attention to detail — and in particular the ability to “start small” with a strong understanding of databases and buyer behaviors, and then scale from there — may help SMBs grow, succeed, and compete successfully with larger companies.
- Rely on ROI as a Key Indicator of Success.
In evaluating success, SMB marketers say “generating revenue” is key, and they say this to a greater extent than marketers from large companies. Smaller companies can gain a keener understanding of marketing metrics with more sophistication here, in particular by seeking an understanding of ROI as a main criterion for marketing success.
Implementing strategic lead generation and lead nurturing programs is now an essential part of a successful SMB marketing program. By taking steps to maximize your program’s effectiveness, such as building a high level of collaboration with sales, measuring results carefully, producing smart content, optimizing the advantages a smaller program offers, and adopting the right technology, your organization should be well on its way to seeing more leads, better leads, and a higher return on investment.