By Mike Richardson
The report, Smarketing: Why sales and marketing should be friends, looks at how the balance between business-to-business (B2B) vendors and their customers has shifted dramatically, as the internet has empowered buyers with the ability to research decisions long before they start talking to sales representatives. This development has had a huge impact on lead generation, making it a major issue for businesses today – particularly those selling to other businesses.
The study draws on numerous independent sources examining the challenges B2B marketers and sales teams face. It notes that a disconnect between marketing and sales departments at many companies is due to a lack of adequate lead scoring, which in turn creates a pipeline of unqualified opportunities and a lack of detailed intelligence on prospects and customers alike, which leaves sales with a cold-calling situation.
In contrast, the report outlines how pioneering companies are linking their marketing and CRM platforms to rate opportunities effectively. Lead scoring and using marketing automation provide contacts with the information they seek via online channels, including social media. In addition, by using marketing software, detailed prospect intelligence seamlessly flows into a company’s CRM system for the sales reps to use when making initial contact.
Companies selling to direct consumers (not business to business) have been ahead of the curve when it comes to usingwebsites, online advertising, email, social media and other digital media to produce content that advises and informs potential customers. Whereas B2B companies appear to be struggling to use these ‘inbound’ media channels to effectively generate leads – particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who are trying to do more with tight marketing budgets.
Some of the key facts brought to the fore in the report include:
•ï€ 93% of business buyers use online search to begin the buying process and 90% say that when they are ready to buy, they will approach a supplier themselves;
•ï€ the average B2B lead costs £168/$264/€186 and yet only 27% are qualified;
•ï€ nurtured leads produce, on average, 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured;
•ï€ companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost than those that don’t;
•ï€ companies that invest in marketing automation solutions see 70% faster sales cycles and 54% improvement in quota achievement;
•ï€ 58% of B2B companies say business social media is a top three lead source with a similar proportion citing online advertising.
The study demonstrates that companies that want to successfully nurture leads to capitalise on the resulting sales bounce need to institute marketing automation to deliver topical information to a contact, based on where the contact is in the sales funnel, via automated responses. The report outlines the need for businesses to produce content that engages consumers with useful and relatively neutral information early in the selling process, leading to targeted and personalised content that supports the materials the consumer has already shown an interest in, nurturing the lead to a ‘sales-ready’ position. Furthermore to content creation and delivery, employing technology that allows companies to feed data captured in the marketing software into the Sales CRM system creates a ‘deal refinery’, resulting in sales getting more qualified leads and useful prospect intelligence andmarketing the improved return on investment it requires.
Innovative B2B companies are finding ways to engage with customers more effectively and earlier in the process, while overcoming the traditional blame game played between sales and marketing and the argument over ‘what is a lead’. In B2B companies that are ahead of the curve, sales and marketing are already working closely together to nurture leads, linking marketing software with the company CRM and syncing relevant information between each other to create closed loop reporting, rather than a linear approach to lead generation.
With the marketing software feeding into the CRM system, sales teams are no longer flying blind and can make their own informed and tailored approaches to customers – and ultimately close more deals – while marketing can use automation and lead scoring to nurture leads more successfully and even re-approach prospects that proved unready to talk to sales. Companies that want to thrive in the era of ever-present digital communication need such a co-ordinated approach to customer management, up-to-date intelligence and effective automation tied to lead-scoring and real-time online activity to succeed.
About the author
Mike Richardson, Managing Director EMEA of Maximizer Software.