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Seven Important Takeaways from the 2011 MarketingSherpa B2B Summit

Last week, I attended  the MarketingSherpa B2B Summit in Boston. The line-up of speakers was fabulous including Jay Baer, Kristin Zhivago and numerous experts from MECLABS; all of them providing fascinating information on how to optimize the B2B lead generation funnel.  Here are a few things that resonated with me:

The biggest challenges for B2B marketers are 1) generating high-quality sales leads, 2) providing a sufficient volume of leads to sales, and 3) accommodating lengthening sales cycles. No real surprise there. I’m sure all of us experience these challenges.

What is surprising is that B2B marketers don’t appear to be adapting new marketing practices that can help to address these challenges. According to research from MarketingSherpa, 61% of marketers send all leads directly to sales but only 27% of these leads are actually qualified.  68% of marketers have not identified a sales funnel, 79% are not scoring their leads and 65% have no nurturing campaigns in place.  Clearly, there is an opportunity for us to address  the premature handoff of leads to sales,  identify and articulate a lead funnel  that we can support with marketing , and begin to develop lead scoring and nurturing processes. 

The value proposition is the essence of marketing.  Your value proposition should address two key questions: What does your company do? and Why should a buyer that meets your ideal customer profile buy from you and not one of your competitors?  It’s important to include at least one key differentiator in your value proposition that identifies what makes your solution or service unique and better than your competition.

Email marketing is very much alive.  The demise of email has been greatly exaggerated. In several  case studies from large B2B technology companies, we heard how email is an important part of their marketing mix, especially when it comes to nurturing leads. Certainly, email and social media can co-exist and when used together produce a greater ROI.  

Nurturing is increasing in importance. With sales cycles lengthening, lead  nurturing becomes a required component for B2B marketers. Nurturing can be used in many different ways and at different stages of the sales cycle:

  • Ongoing  nurturing  to keep your brand on the prospects mind. A company newsletter is an example of this type of nurturing.
  •  Outreach  nurturing serves to capture new leads or garner permission from new leads to have a sales representative reach out to them. Outreach nurturing can also be used to collect additional information from a leads. This type of nurturing requires that we provide something of value to the prospect in order to obtain the additional information we seek.
  •  Engagement nurturing targets prospects that are in the early stages of the sales cycle. The goal is to build a stronger relationship with the prospect to increase their interest.  Engagement nurturing can also be used to re-engage with dormant sales opportunities. This type of nurturing requires content specific to the prospects needs.
  • Conversion nurturing  targets prospects further along in the sales cycle.  The goal of this kind of campaign is to drive prospects to make a purchase. Case studies, buyer guides etc. are examples of the type of content that is needed to drive conversion.
  • New customer nurturing is designed to increase customer satisfaction. Providing education “how to” information to new customers can help to ensure a positive experience for a new customer and deepen the relationship.

Social media is more important for B2B than B2C.  86% of business technology buyers engage in some form of social activity for work purposes. As B2B marketers we also have fewer overall customers (if we’re targeting appropriately) and what we’re selling is a considered purchase  for our target customers. Social media provides touchpoints with these customers between official campaign elements keeping your brand top of mind and providing avenues for prospects to engage with you as they move through the funnel.

Marketing automation is becoming a must have for B2B marketers as we begin to own more of the sales funnel with nurturing, qualifying and managing leads. The first step in selecting a marketing automation system is justifying the investment. Marketing automation solutions are typically priced based on the size of your database. Arguments for marketing automation can be based on improving lead quality and the impact this can have on your organization.

Your current customers will teach you how to sell to new customers. They have a vested interest in your success after they have made a purchase. 80% of a prospective customers’ questions are answered before ever speaking to a sales representative. For us to truly understand why our customers purchase from us, we must speak to them directly. Questions to ask your current customers that can help you sell better to prospects include:

  • How do you feel about our product/service
  • Are our prices fair?- What was your buying process?
  • What is your biggest problem/challenge?
  • What trends do you see in your/our market?
  • If you were CEO of our company tomorrow, what would you fix?
  • What did you type into Google when you first started searching?
  • Anything else I should have asked?

 B2B buyer behavior has changed. We have some catching up to do to ensure our marketing efforts maximize results.

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