Business-to-Business, or B2B marketing, is much like a two-way street: it depends on the success of the other party and vice versa. It’s a collaborative marketing solution that requires the understanding of all parties to gain traction in the marketplace in order to translate leads into sales.
While business to business marketing has always existed in some form – purveyors of goods have engaged in commerce with one another for thousands of years – it first emerged as a discipline of study in the 1970s, focusing largely on industrial manufacturing. By the 1990s, the B2B sales funnel as we know it began to take shape, its definition broadening to include the marketing of products to other businesses or organizations for use in the production or for general business operations. Where consumer marketing aims to reach large groups of individual buyers through mass media and/or retailers, business marketing has shorter, more direct channels of distribution and is often personal or relationship driven.
The fact that B2B buyers are a uniquely rational group makes the marketing team’s work that much easier – it’s our job to emphasize the consistency, value, and reliability of the products or services we’re working with, helping decision-makers to make the emotional and logical transition from interest to a sale an easy jump.
The modern B2B Sales Funnel relies on five main points:
- Brand awareness
- and finally, the Decision to Buy
To improve your B2B sales funnel, we’ve put together 50 tips that will help translate leads to targeted sales:
Where Does Brand Awareness Fit in the B2B Sales Funnel?
- Connect with your audience – Begin compiling information on your potential customers across multiple channels. Initial market research should reveal info on their personal information, buying history, and expose their concerns.
- Identify what it is you want to accomplish – allow yourself the opportunity to experiment with your brand.
- Fill the top of your funnel – when building brand awareness, think of it as maintaining the level of fullness at the top of your funnel. The more awareness you can build, the more potential sales you’ll be able to make down the road.
- Invest time in increasing your reach and target populations to stimulate your preferred market.
- Analyze the info — Begin acting on data-driven info, rather than going with your gut. This step will help you to streamline the processes you’ll undertake down the road. Learn what problems your customers want to have solved, and what role your service needs to play for them.
- Develop your brand’s reputation by building trust to help hold onto thoughtful, rational leads. The earlier you can build trust within your customer, the better.
- Your improved brand awareness puts the spotlight on your brand within the right audience.
- Engagement – Social media platforms, blogs, creative content, and a functional website help leads to learning more about your brand.
- Keyword driven blogging – daily blogging has proven to be exponentially more effective than monthly blogging, assisting marketing teams to execute their strategies quicker, translating leads further down the sales funnel.
- Targeted marketing results in less waste – both in terms of time, effort, and money.
- Communication early on is key – align your sales and marketing team to translate prospects into qualified opportunities.
- Use social media monitoring tools to further engage users by using proactive keywords or hashtags, ensuring those same people pay attention to your brand.
INTEREST – Set the hook with great content, and calls to action
- Score your leads in terms of where your customer is on their journey to determine interest. Gauge their placement within the sales funnel.
- Identify leads that are sales-ready and those that may need their interest developed further in your brand or service.
- Invest in content – plan on having a plethora of blog posts, white-papers and case studies ready to maintain the interest of your leads.
- Hold onto interest by sharing relevant content to demonstrate your brand understands the customer.
- Build credibility by marketing your brand as an expert, piquing interest by sharing (one or two) educational solutions.
- Allow your engaged lead to investing in their own research by making them fill out a form, before moving forward. This will allow you to gain valuable lead information for future lead nurturing projects.
- Use the form information to send personalized emails answering ongoing questions your customer may have. This will help move your lead through the sales funnel at an accelerated pace.
- Develop a ‘call to action’ on each page, blog, or social media post you use to hook your lead.
- Having trouble keeping up with content creation? Break larger blog posts into smaller succinct posts to space out your content effectively.
- Combine smaller tidbits of information with info-graphics, or royalty free images to increase their effectiveness.
- Remember that your job is to help the potential prospect to understand that they need your service or product, not that they can afford it.
INTENT – The customer’s, and your own
- Recognizing your client’s intent, or goal is elemental to understanding how to sell them on your idea, or product. Continue to develop your research to understand their journey, and head them off with like-minded intent in the form of a follow-up blog, or email.
- Now that you’re moving down the sales funnel model and beginning to see signs of sales-ready behaviour, continue to tailor your content to market your brand as a solution, rather than a quick fix.
- Building on your gathered information, gauge the customers increasing intent by asking more targeted questions.
- Offer your support by identifying with their concerns and reiterating your intent – to make a collaborative decision with measurable results in mind.
- Direct your customer’s intent with loaded content that addresses concerns pertaining to expertise, and consistency.
- Use testimonials from previously satisfied customers that exhibit their previous intentions having been met.
- Implement lead scoring to identify the leads that exhibit serious intent to pursue your product or service. This will direct your team to invest more time in those likely prospects, and less to those who are less inclined to continue forward.
- Further, break down your lead scoring information into measurable information that can further help you develop your B2B marketing strategy down the road. Measure things like email engagement, social media engagement, their demographic information and overall behavior to assess customer intent, and where they’re being directed to you from.
CONSIDERATION/EVALUATION – Learn from your process
- This section not only relies on the customer but also on the marketing team as well. Consideration means many things: what the lead thinks of your brand story and content, how you stack up against the competition, how they interpret your dedication to follow through, efficiency, etc.
- From the stance of a B2B marketing team, you need to be considering how you got this far with your targeted leads, and how you’ll tailor your content in the future. Consider what content works, what needs to be re-evaluated, and the percentage of leads that dropped off along the way.
- Evaluation and reflection will be key to increasing the effectiveness of your process. Take this time to sync up with your team, so you’re sure everyone is on the same page in terms of what success looks like.
- The vast majority of content marketing lacks an integrated content strategy. Evaluate your process by looking at ways to make B2B market research, and targeted search, more streamlined for your firm.
- Consider where you fall on the list of where potential customers go to begin their B2B purchasing decision.
- One of the most complex aspects of B2B marketing is measuring the effectiveness of your content. Spend time putting meaningful measures in place and continue to refine them over time.
- Meet with your team weekly to discuss the progress of your content program – and when you begin to see results, don’t stop or slow your meetings. Keep the momentum moving forward by continuing to meet.
- Don’t let the idea of ‘perfect,’ get in the way of progress – instead of getting frustrated trying to perfect an old system, engage with your team about how to generate more leads that keep your sales funnel full, concentrate on reaching a broader audience.
- Try to better understand the leads that progress down the funnel and make their way to sales.
- Don’t get antsy when you see how many leads fall through the cracks – nobody is perfect. Concentrate on how you can measure improvement in your results.
- Be aware that your team always needs to evolve – putting creative people in charge of finding new ways to engage with and attract new buyers is integral to your relevance within the market. Ensure that these people are motivated by success, and agree on what success looks like.
- Bank on tiny improvements to each of your stages. If you shoot for a 5-10% increase in performance, you’ll be in a good place to start seeing vastly increased sales at the end of the day.
DECISION TO BUY – The home stretch
- The ABC concept (always be closing) has its perks but isn’t without its downfalls. No one likes being hard-sold; so try not to do it to your prospective customer.
- Make sure that your prospective lead has made it to the bottom of the funnel for the right reasons. Understand the reasons why they’ve followed along this far, and take the opportunity to appreciate your hard work – this is the home stretch.
- Allow the close to come naturally – the big closing techniques and sly speeches you hear in the movies aren’t going to happen. Engage with your prospect respectfully, and let the sale come to you.
- Your sale should mean you understand your customers business, and you’ve invested the time to understand their desired outcomes. Your close should be focused on continuing with that understanding.
- Ask your buyer if the deal and their journey are making sense to them and if there is anything holding them back. If they give you a ‘no’ response, you’ve done your job in helping them to realize you’ve invested your energy in making them feel comfortable. If you get a ‘yes,’ ask what you need to do to keep moving forward.
- Remind your customer that your product has great value. Once you have quantified their investment against the potential for return, you’ll get your close. Well done!