The rules of B2B marketing are in constant flux. You might come up with a killer recipe for content that will be completely obsolete in a couple of weeks. It’s harder to keep up with B2B demand than it is to follow the comment stream on a live White House Press Conference – blink for a second and you’re bound to miss something huuuuuge. The best we can do is to try to stay apprised of where marketing is headed – and sometimes that just means doing your best to speculate and using your past experience to predict what’s going to be effective in the future.

The landscape of B2B marketing has completely changed over the past few years. A number of things are more relevant this year that didn’t even exist in the past. You have to become experts on things that were just invented and might not even be around for that long! It can make your head spin but it’s the only way to stay in the game in the current business climate.

For now, the biggest change we have seen is how closely Sales and Marketing have become aligned. Whereas before marketing would hand off to sales at the very top of the funnel, these days it is happening solidly in the middle of the funnel – and sometimes even at the very bottom of the funnel. That means that marketers are nurturing leads almost the complete way into the buyer journey instead of just enticing them initially and then letting sales work their magic.

Here are some of the major trends you can expect to see in B2B Demand Gen Best Practices in 2017:

  1. 2/3 of Tech Sales Development teams will be reporting to Marketing, not Sales.
  2. “Opportunities” will be handed off from Marketing to Sales instead of MQLs.
  3. Appointment-setting is getting heaps smarter.
  4. Maturation of Email Marketing Automation means that delivery rates are down as generally fatigue sets in. i.e. email opens rates and Click-Through Rates (CTR) are moving lower.
  5. Content Marketing Audience Targeting is becoming more and more of a critical advantage.

Overview of B2B Demand Gen

Putting together a B2B Demand Generation strategy can feel pretty dizzying at times. There is a constant influx of new terms and ideas and getting them all to integrate together in a seamless and effective way can definitely be complicated. In order to gain a better understanding, we like to break it down into three main topics.

  • Lead Management
  • Marketing Automation
  • Content Marketing

B2b Demand generation

These three elements basically encompass everything you need for effective demand generation if you can figure out how they all fit together. Achieving success with developing buyer-centric demand gen programs requires these three elements to work like a well-oiled machine.

First, let’s take a look at what they each mean.

  • Lead management is the ushering of a lead from their earliest entry point through marketing nurturing, to the point they are ready to be handed off to sales and then, ultimately, closing them. It refers to the whole process of how marketing and sales work together and it requires marketing automation to work efficiently.
  • Marketing automation is the driving force behind lead management. The marketing automation engine is built on how leads are behaving (i.e. downloading an ebook, visiting your site, etc.) and other forms of segmentation logic to make sure leads are being effectively pushed through the funnel. However, this can’t happen without awesome content to draw them in and keep them interested.
  • Content marketing helps to educate buyers to make their own decisions in order to propel the buying process forward. It is basically the architecture behind the info you’re providing to the buyer. Content is crucial for educating the buyer and also giving you more info on where they are at in the buying process in order to inform your lead management. See how intertwined these three elements are?

So how do you use these three building blocks to develop a stellar demand gen strategy? B2B Demand Gen basically means acquiring leads by getting the word out about your company and the products that it offers to other companies. Distributing info about your company helps increase the demand for your product. Check out our best practices and put them to use.

Top 11 B2b Demand Gen Best Practices

1. Leveraging Social Media

B2B Demand Generation through Social Media is becoming a killer way to boost sales. Companies like Socedo are helping B2B businesses discover, engage and qualify prospects via social media in order to increase revenue at scale. That means that you can leverage the power of your social networks to generate more leads no matter how quickly your company is growing.

2. Appointment setting

B2b demand generation best practicesAppointment setting is becoming more sophisticated than ever. Once a prospect shows signs of interest in your product, marketers can offer to set up an appointment for the prospect to speak with a member of the sales team. It’s a great way to get the most out of your leads by priming prospects and prepping them to talk to your sales team. Companies like Calendly are becoming more and more crucial to organizing and automating the whole process. Also, companies like Madkudu are leveraging third party-data to qualify a lead in real-time, and then give the most qualified leads the option to directly book a demo. This dramatically streamlines the process.

3. Lead Nurturing Strategies Need to be Sharpened.

As we continue to learn more and more about how lead nurturing works, we can refine the strategies we are using. Keeping tabs on marketing automation, CRM and tech service offerings and staying abreast of what different companies can offer your organization sharper strategizing abilities.

4. Stage-Based Marketing

Despite the rising tide of ABM, mastering Stage-Based marketing is still super important. Even amongst B2B companies who have some sort of ABM Strategy, they also complement that strategy with top of funnel leads. “According to Pardot’s 2013 State of Demand Generation study, 77% of buyers want different content at each stage of their research, a statistic that highlights the importance of being able to cater to buyer preferences by delivering appropriate content at each stage of the sales cycle.” It doesn’t matter how well you understand the “sales funnel” – without understanding how to develop content based on a need stage, it won’t get you anywhere. Try imagining the prospects’ needs based on their point of view and what stage of demand they are at throughout the journey.

5. Having a Strong Demand Funnel Framework in Place is Important.

You should think about your demand framework as a factory. It needs to have a framework in place, a sales and marketing lead management process and a closed-loop reporting system that improves conversion rates. You can operationalize your Demand Factory to have all of these gears working behind the scenes at all times. Having a well documented Framework is ket to make sure everything operates effectively.

6. Lead Scoring

Platforms like Hubspot have basic lead scoring systems in place, whereas Marketing Automation Platforms like Marketo take it a step further. If you haven’t already, it’s time to get help with building a lead scoring model, get sales on board, monitor and analyze its impact and optimize it over time. It’s an integral part of your sales funnel and for ensuring that you’re developing content that matches where your leads are at in the funnel.

7. Lead Nurturing that Maps to the Buyer’s Journey

Best practices for b2b demand genWhen you have scored your leads and developed content for each stage of the funnel, you want to make sure you have a lead nurturing system in place that has blueprints and programs for each stage of the buying process. This means that you have a solid strategy in place to make sure that the right content is getting delivered to the right people at the right time. Nurturing should include nurture flows, content strategy, persona tracks and overall performance metrics.

8. CRM and Marketing Automation Integration

Here at Oz, we took the step early on of making sure that our Hubspot was syncing properly with Salesforce. That way, when we had leads that were either “Hot Leads” interacting with our BOFU content, or had requested a demo, those leads populated directly into our Salesforce pipeline for our sales team to do outreach. This can save huge amounts of time and money because you are automating these essential steps instead of having to use your brains to make these connections. You’re also making sure that you don’t let your best leads slip away.

9. Campaign Execution

Just having all the machinery isn’t always enough. You need to be able to pull off acrobatic marketing campaigns that put your creative talent to use and engage buyers in new and unique ways. Matt Lovett, our founder, says: “Marketing is only two things: figuring out where your customer is in the buyer’s journey, and then then figuring out the biggest lever you can get to move them to the next stage. Creativity is generally that lever.” The recipe is pretty simple but it’s the personal and creative touches that you add to your campaigns that really help them succeed.

10. Marketing Analytics

In order to ensure that your demand gen campaigns are effective, you need to use a combo of statistics that are usually bunched together under the umbrella term “marketing analytics.” These are ways of monitoring metrics connected to your campaigns and are vital to B2B demand gen. The trouble is that businesses often develop these early on and then stick to measuring the same ones over time when in reality they need to be consistently adjusted to reflect the accomplishment of certain goals – and those goals are always changing. You need to be able to rate a campaign’s success based on the quality of leads it is bringing in.

11. Be smarter about email

60% of marketers say that email marketing is producing ROI for their organization – that means it continues to be one of the most valuable channels for B2B lead gen. It also means that you need to focus on more personalized emails, CTAs and messaging in general in order to connect with your customers and leverage email in the very best way. Use the insights about what emails individuals are responding to in order to tailor your messaging. Make your mail mobile-friendly. And, instead of just providing an ‘opt-out’ or ‘unsubscribe’ button, make sure to provide an ‘opt-down’ option where users can reduce the frequency of emails by combining offers into a weekly summary or only receiving offers on a certain topic or product. This will reduce your chance of losing prospects that have at least some interest but don’t want a barrage of communications coming their way.

As this table shows, Best Practice companies must generate only about 70 inquiries to acquire one new customer, while average firms need five times as many. Best Practice companies also achieve an overall lead-to-revenue conversion rate of 1.4%, which is about five times higher that the rate achieved by average firms. Those numbers can add up!

Following these best practices for B2B Demand Gen can have an immediate impact on the success of your business. Try it out and see! We were able to generate 1000+ leads after 9 months of blogging using our software, which helped us come up with creative content that resonates with our audience. 2017 is going to be all about finding and inventing new ways of getting noticed – why not stay as far ahead of the fold as you can? Reach out to us for more info – we can give your marketing team the boost it needs to see you hit your inbound lead goals.