“Money is not the prime asset in life. Time is,” Gordon Gecko famously says in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010).
Like Gordon, we all recognize that time is a critical factor in sales. Yet, even successful B2B marketers struggle to find ways to streamline the sales and prospecting process.
Years ago, before much of the B2B sales process moved online, it was simpler to figure out which leads were warm and which were cold. When potential customers called a sales rep to ask for information or walked up to your booth at a trade show, it was clear they were at least mildly interested in purchasing a product like yours.
But today, according to Gartner research, only 17% of the B2B sales process is spent actually talking to sales reps. Increasingly, digital savvy buyers spend most of their time searching online for options, perusing vendor websites, and reading online reviews. That means most leads enter the top of your sales funnel via some type of digital interaction, making it hard for B2B marketers to know who is a genuine prospect and who ended up on your site because of an errant Google search.
Because of this, marketing activity at the top of the sales funnel is often hugely inefficient for B2B businesses. One recent report found that up to 45% of leads generated online are completely unmarketable. That’s a lot of wasted time for sales teams and lost potential revenue for companies. How can businesses do a better job of locating “intent-based leads,” meaning prospects who are actually interested in and empowered to buy their products?
One solution increasingly employed by successful B2B brands is to partner with a trade association or B2B publisher within your sector. The advantages here are clear. Unlike people randomly googling keyword phrases, members or subscribers of these trade organizations are pre-qualified, in that you can be sure they are aligned with the industry you’re targeting. Starting your sales process with them saves your team the trouble of sifting through vast quantities of poor quality leads, compressing the sales cycle by eliminating many top-of-the-funnel inefficiencies.
One of the biggest advantages of aligning your brand with a professional association is that it allows you to build trust with prospective customers, according to Cassity Lindstum, Director of Marketing for SecureDocs Inc., which markets its contract management Software, ContractWorks, to legal professionals.
“Earning trust is especially important in the legal space because of the nature of our audience’s work. So it’s very important that we align our brand with organizations and institutions already trusted by our audience so they recognize that our brand is credible and trustworthy,” explains Lindstrum. “We align our brand with professional associations that our target audience belongs to, such as the Association of Corporate Counsel.”
Once you’ve decided which organization or publisher is the best fit for your company, how do you get the most out of the relationship in order to generate high quality leads for your business? Sponsoring one of their events is a popular choice and can be an excellent investment. The problem with events, however, is they only last a few days. How do you benefit from your partnership the other 360+ days a year?
Positioning yourself as a thought leader and acting as a resource for the organization’s members or subscribers can serve as a source of leads year-round. If you establish yourself as a reliable source of solutions, your target customers will think of you as a trusted partner when they have problems that can be potentially solved by your products.
As SecureDocs’ Lindstrum explains, “We make sure all our content is educational and helpful for our target audience. Being helpful is an essential component of our brand.”
The first step in positioning yourself as a solution provider is to understand the needs of your audience. What specific challenges are they facing? What questions or challenges do they have to overcome in order to be more successful at their jobs and help grow their company? What trends do they want to learn more about? Once you understand the best way to help, providing authoritative and insightful information will build both awareness of and trust in your company.
Your goal at this stage shouldn’t be to sell but to be of service, and your choice of topics and tone should reflect that. Sober, thoughtful, and informed content on issues your customers truly care about will get you more leads than aggressively pitching your products.
“We use our content to offer our audience tools and strategies to help them with some of the problems they experience,” says Lindstrum. “And we do that whether they have a need for our product at the moment or not. That’s part of our brand identity.”
According to research conducted by Edelman and LinkedIn, 88% of decision-makers agree that thought-leadership content plays a critical role in positively influencing their perception of an organization.
Keith Bateman, head of marketing for North America at Dext, which offers software solutions to accountants and bookkeepers, has been in charge of ramping up the company’s content efforts over the past few years. He has seen the lead gen potential of authoritative content in action.
“Our goal is to not only generate content but make sure it’s quality, well thought out, has research, and useful statistics. It’s something that when people download it, they don’t regret filling out that form because then they don’t mind getting a follow-up call or email,” he explains.
Once you have the right kind of content to engage the exact customers you’re hoping to attract, the final piece of the puzzle is deciding where that content should appear. Your website or various social media platforms are possible choices, but as we’ve discussed, this scattershot approach generally brings in lower quality leads that your sales team then needs to spend additional time qualifying.
Featuring your content on the website of your chosen industry organization or publication ensures that those who see it are those who can benefit from it most, as well as those you are most interested in reaching. Organizations and publications will offer different avenues to spotlight your content, including space in their magazine, blog, or membership resource libraries.
For example, Lead Marvels has partnered with select trade organizations, including associations and B2B publishers, to create digital resource libraries that enable B2B marketers to share their expertise with members and subscribers searching for educational material. Lead Marvels’ resource libraries syndicate thought-leadership content from B2B companies, and promote them to organizations’ members and subscribers. When an individual registers to download content, the B2B company that provided the content receives that individual’s contact information as a lead.
The result is a win-win for all parties. Potential sales leads get access to the kind of valuable information that can help solve their business challenges, and companies have an opportunity to highlight their deep industry knowledge. The result is a sales funnel that works better for everyone, ironing out top level inefficiencies for sales teams, offering companies a hassle-free way to showcase their expertise, and arming prospects with information that can truly move the needle for their companies.
If you are interested in learning more about how Lead Marvels can help you accelerate your sales pipeline, request a demo here.