Gone are the days of customers waiting for companies to approach them via traditional outbound marketing channels. In fact, in the internet-powered world, more than nine in ten business buyers are turning to online search to begin the buying process. How are ground-breaking companies adapting to this shift in consumer behaviour and winning new customers? With smart marketing: automated inbound marketing strategies that engage your prospects without the hard sell.
As consumers become less and less receptive to the outbound marketing practices associated with the traditional sales model, a shift in emphasis to inbound channels is already well underway. According to iMedia Connection, 93% of business buyers use online search to begin the buying process, meaning that companies must be ready to engage with them at the primary research stage. The best tool to do this? Informative content that positions your company as a leader and knocks your prospects’ socks off!
Smart marketers have long understood that content is once more king, yet creating great communications is not everything. If you want to warm your prospects gradually rather than running the risk of scaring them away with the hard sell, you need to know precisely how, when and what you should be delivering to a specific prospect.
Put an end to the blame game
With the average B2B lead costing as much as £168, it’s crucial that any business treats each and every lead generated with the utmost care. In reality however, it is alarmingly common practice for all prospects captured by marketing to be sent straight to sales without any further investigation or qualification by marketing. This leaves sales with a stack of ‘undercooked’ leads with questionable sales potential and little to no information with which to make a tailored approach to the client.
This can result in a strained relationship between marketing and sales departments, with each blaming the other for poor sales performance. Lack of cooperation between marketers and salespeople contributes in turn to lead wastage, and as lead conversion rates continue to drop, the vicious circle rolls on.
So what’s the alternative? Content-driven inbound marketing that passes qualiﬁed leads to a well-informed sales force is at the heart of what successful, visionary SMEs are doing today. By facilitating close collaboration between sales and marketing teams, lead nurturing through inbound marketing - drawing prospects to a company with engaging content rather than casting the net out and seeing who can be caught - makes both departments more productive than ever before.
The good news is that implementing this strategy is not as difficult as it may seem… here’s how.
Six steps to smart marketing
- As with any big project, implementing a new strategy requires an investment of time and resources - which can impact other targets - so be prepared for challenges when approaching management. There is the risk of a time-lag as your campaign is in its initial stages (as marketing and sales will have less leads to pursue) but the long-term improvement in conversion rates will offset this.
- Information is power, and lead intelligence is the number one tool for converting prospects into customers. By recording all prospect interactions (via a system such as CRM), marketing can analyse the data to reveal which content is gaining initial interest and which is pushing leads further down the sales funnel.
- This insight enables marketing to create content maps for each individual prospect journey: each initial piece of content is the springboard for a unique information stream that will warm the prospect by delivering helpful communications. The sequence in which you offer related content allows you to build up a contact profile and assess a prospect’s level of interest in your products.
- An automated scoring system will provide you with tangible insight into a particular prospect’s level of engagement with you. It awards points based on a prospect’s content consumption, with each piece of content scored according to its influence on the conversion process. A blog visit, for example, could see a prospect given five points, a webinar watch ten or a whitepaper download 15. Once a prospect accumulates a certain number of points, they are automatically sent to sales.
- By this time, workflow should feel like a breeze. The beauty of this system is that it enables businesses to implement a content map automatically in response to every action a prospect takes. An upfront effort will be required to create the range of potential responses – guided by the content strategy – but the system can then be programmed to a send this content out to prospects at the right trigger points. This shows prospects that the company listens to them, whilst at the same time facilitating the gathering of further intelligence.
In case you’re wondering what happens with prospects that aren’t ready to qualify, the strategy accommodates for this too: ‘undercooked’ prospects are pushed back up the sales funnel and receive a further stream of tailored communications triggered by their interactions. The nurturing therefore continues until the lead is finally ready for conversion.
- The information collected on how prospects are behaving in response to content, highlights which aspects of the strategy are working and which aren’t. Ironically, data coming from cold prospects is incredibly valuable here, enabling marketing to tweak communications and become more effective in generating more sales-ready prospects.
Marketing and sales working hand in hand
This approach sees salespeople presented with only the hottest prospects with the best odds of buying. They require less work to make the sale, freeing up the salesforce’s time so they can concentrate on closing even more deals. The nurturing process has populated the CRM with information that enables sales to establish exactly who the lead is, what they’re looking for, when they want to get it and how much they can afford to spend. In short, sales need to use the data gathered by marketing in order to tailor their approach to every potential customer.
After agreeing on the best-suited product packages and service levels, the deal is ready to be closed. At this point it’s crucial to remember follow-up and after-care: the marketing strategy should incorporate tailored communication streams for newly converted customers. This is the moment to show that the customer’s business is appreciated.
A smart inbound marketing strategy driven by quality content makes leads effectively self-qualify through ongoing content consumption. A closed loop of information between sales and marketing departments allows them to cooperate smoothly whilst passing on customer intelligence and feedback to one another. No opportunity is lost; businesses can sit back as marketing automation works to see conversion rates go through the roof.
Mike Richardson is managing director of Maximizer Software.
About Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson - Managing Director, Maximizer EMEA
As Managing Director (EMEA), Mike is charged with leading and delivering the marketing, sales, service and operational strategy for the EMEA region, alongside the management of the Certified Solutions Provider network.
Mike joined Maximizer Software in 2000, by which time he already had extensive experience in key operational roles in IT infrastructure, engineering and systems management.
Since then he has headed up several areas of the Maximizer EMEA to gain a full perspective of the business, its functions and processes, as well as an incredible depth of knowledge of Maximizer CRM and the value CRM can bring to business growth. Through this he has gained a true understanding of how to help other SMEs grow and succeed through the use of CRM.
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