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The most effective way to get real, actionable B2B leads in 2023

Email marketing

By David Battson 7 min read

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Let’s not beat around the bush, it’s harder to get good quality leads with real buyer intent now.

We’ve addressed why this is happening in a separate blog titled Has selling got harder lately?.

If you’re running the sales team you don’t just want to know it’s tough though, there’s enough blogs about that. You want answers. – especially ones that work for small to medium sized businesses.

This is what people tell me all the time

  1. Salespeople are being passed ‘leads’ but these are more like a handful of digital clicks than real buying intent. The contact is still virtually impossible to reach and if you can get through, they often don’t recall the interactions.
  2. Lead volume has dropped. Marketing teams are struggling to get heard above the ever-increasing noise and the sheer number of channels in play.
  3. There’s so much disparate technology that knowing which leads are hot at the right time is not as easy as it’s supposed to be. There’s one system to track email responses, another for website traffic, something else for company intelligence (and so on). Salespeople have so many sources to check to get a picture of prospect activity that they have to be mini analysts. It’s so laborious that they cut corners. A company’s true picture of hot leads is almost entirely lost.
  4. When you do make contact the prospect hasn’t heard of your company. Against all odds you do get through, but the person you’re speaking to hasn’t heard of your company and you’re on the backfoot pitching to someone who is defensive and giving you 3 minutes to justify your existence.
  5. You tend to run single campaigns and get bursts of leads, but keeping quality lead flow constant is really hard. There’s often a flurry of marketing effort followed by a burst of leads. The hot ones get followed up but everything else gets left. There aren’t the resources for a proper lead nurturing programme to make things consistent.
  6. The prospect data just isn’t good enough. It’s a constant battle to keep records up to date and know who the best prospects are.

I’m not here to whip up fear, uncertainty and doubt. Because actually there’s quite a few new ways of doing things that are simpler, affordable, and get better commercial results. Here’s what to look for…

Step 1. This is how you get yourself a much better start

Don’t use data that’s not fit for purpose. Sounds obvious doesn’t it, so let me break this down.

  • There are databases built specifically for B2B marketers but you’re not automatically offered them

    For years, data all came from one source and that was largely credit score information. Now it is possible to buy data that’s been built specifically for B2B marketers… so long as you shop around and make sure this is what you’re getting. Find out how your data has been compiled and look for intelligence points like social data, premises profiles, technology installed, trading history, utility usage, import/export data etc. All of these elements can be used for richer modelling which leads me nicely on to my next point
  • Select your target audience based on the profile of your best customers

    Your database is just a blank canvass. When you select your criteria, move beyond flat firmographics like geography and sector. Do things like model your selection on the profile of your best customers, or use predictions on buyer intent. These are simpler than you think so even small to medium sized businesses can do it, and it will give your campaign a much better start.

  • Prioritise your focus by assessing your Total Addressable Market (TAM)

    Most sales territory and campaign planning is done based on historical experience. These days, a TAM report costs as little as £3k and they really are impressive. Walking into a board room or sales meeting with this kind of insight is compelling. Digital TAM’s are interactive visual dashboards that are customised entirely to your business, showing you the sectors, geographies, personas etc that have the most untapped potential – it’s even possible to put a £number on the business potential.

Step 2. This is the answer to stabilising quality lead flow… FOREVER

It’s impossible to keep up with the preferences and engagement patterns of each individual prospect – yet this is the experience you need to create if you want real and actionable leads.

Step 2 is all about the technology you use.

  • Choose a platform that does the heavy lifting for you but don’t underestimate the human element

    There’s plenty of industry thinking to suggest you need an average of 7 contacts to turn a prospective buyer into an actual buyer. Good luck doing that without a tech platform. But in my experience, I’d also say, good luck doing that without some human support too, especially if it’s your first time. So if you’re choosing a new platform then look at what kind of human support you get for set up and journey building – it will make the process smoother, get you to market faster, and help you produce journeys that work.
  • Find a platform that AUTOMATICALLY grows your prospect pool for you

    It’s called “Always-On, Always-Perfecting”. Look out for it because it’s a game changer.

    As soon as your campaign is switched on, it starts to learn how your prospects are engaging. It looks at the profile of the best performing prospects and automatically goes back to the database to get more.

    It does this constantly.

    This means that your campaign is always growing, and the quality is always improving.

    And if something changes in your market’s behaviour or needs… no problem. The platform learns and responds to this automatically.

    This sounds expensive right? Nope. Typically it’s included in the platform price and was built with small to medium sized businesses in mind.

    It’s the key to stabilising your lead flow… FOREVER.

Step 3. Sales teams must be able to ACTION leads in a few clicks

Imagine I’m your new business sales person and I want to call John Smith who is apparently a hot lead.

The CRM shows me his email marketing interactions. I need to check LinkedIn, then log in to our web tracking tool to see if he’s visited our site but I can’t remember my password, and our marketing team signed us up to a licence for company buyer intelligence so I need to check that too but that’s a separate login. Do you think that’s going to happen? Or do you think I’m going to save myself some time and wing it?

Why are we slowing them down?

  • Scoring leads across multiple channels assures quality (REAL LEADS)

    Your sales people want quality. Is this lead you’re giving them genuinely hot? Look for a platform that sees if a prospect has engaged with email, social ads, your website, and even direct mail. Spanning this broader range of channels assures your sales person that the prospect they’re about to contact has genuine interest in your company and its solutions.
  • Visibility of leads and easy access to insight speeds follow up (ACTIONABLE LEADS)

    Make sure it’s really clear when a lead is hot, who owns it, and how they can interrogate the engagement history. Don’t ask your sales teams to flit between different systems and piece together the insight they need before approaching a prospect. Look at solutions that have single views and dashboards that aggregate this information.

Step 4. Don’t miss the blind spot. Most technology adoptions (and therefore lead gen initiatives) fail because of the humans

Let’s face it, we all want the technology to solve our problems. We want to live in a world where we can watch the demo, sign up, and two weeks later the leads are flowing – with the only requirement from us being a couple of meetings where we can consult but don’t really need to roll our sleeves up.

We can get so sucked into the tech and it’s magical functionality that we underestimate the people onboarding process.

When we launched Dynamo, it wasn’t hard to get people to say yes to sign-up. We quickly learned, that what really made the launch successful was how we supported them through the campaign set up phase. Many people are building journeys for the first time. Doing this alongside another person with deep experience is simply faster and more fun than trying to self teach using a tool and online support.

The platform has a ton of automation, but a bit of human handholding works brilliantly at the start, and when we’re reviewing the results and making optimisation decisions.

Dave Battson

I’m Dave, Operations Director at Data HQ. Sometimes more colloquially known by our team as The Oracle. At Data HQ, we’ve been giving Sales & Marketing more commercial oomph since 2001 and I’ve been behind the wheel for almost all that time. I’m a numbers man at heart and I love how the combination of analytics, propensity modelling and good data can help clients achieve their goals. I’m always available for a chat if you need a hand with your lead generation work

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Dave Battson at Data HQ

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