Table of contents
Build your customer profile
Define your market share using the hexagon method
Define SMART goals
Filter your prospects by firmographics
Alternative uses of the database
When it comes to prospecting new potential clients, things can get challenging. Nowadays, businesses are much more savvy to the fact that it's not so much about quantity, but rather the quality of the leads you're targeting. Of course, this realisation comes with its own problems, with companies constantly recounting issues like:
-"We've spent good money and a great deal of time on our website, publishing regular content that's SEO-optimised, but we're just not getting enough email sign-ups to create a decent campaign"
-"We have a general idea of who our customer base is, but without more detailed information it's becoming harder to know exactly how to target them"
-"Despite finally getting our email list together and running a carefully-planned campaign, we're struggling to get through to the right people... we're constantly coming up against gatekeepers instead".
These sentiments are clearly demonstrated in the graph below, taken from HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound report; businesses state that getting a response and identifying good leads are both more difficult now.
For many years, the B2B sector has encompassed working patterns that, regardless of industry or generation, are still widely used, thanks to their status as classics that never get old.
One such pattern is working with databases; be it containing prospects, shareholders or partners. As it was in the late 80s, when sales managers were using regular pens and hundreds of sheets of paper filled with contact details, phone numbers, addresses and even prospects’ birthdays, today the same “instruments” are used, just in digital format.
The only major differences are accessibility and usability, but even then, the working procedures haven’t changed much. Still, when you need to clean a database, or do other maintenance work centered around your contact lists, you end up wasting a lot of precious time and resources; which, as the graph from HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound report shows, is already becoming a problem for many businesses.
In this guide we'll explore how to use this classic business tool whilst incorporating modern technology in order to work as efficiently as possible. We'll provide answers on topics such as:
Finding out who your ideal customers are
How to narrow your search based on specific factor
Prospecting in the most effective way to close sales
Best practices for lucrative email marketing
Using social media channels to reach new audiences and retarget previous customers
This is not a do-as-we-tell-you kind of deal. We’ll provide some simple, yet powerful concepts which you can choose to implement in your strategy (or not - it’s your choice) or adapt them to better suit your own method.
However you decide to use this information, the most important thing to bear in mind is that it’s accessible and you can use it to work SMART. So, let’s dig in.
Having a clear and in-depth understanding of who your buyers are is essential to almost every aspect of your business. You may already think that you have this covered, but according to a study by IBM, chances are you probably don't. The research found that despite 81% of companies stating that they have a decent understanding of their clientele, only 37% of consumers agreed that their favorite retailer understands them.
Discovering exactly what your customers need and want is crucial for a number of reasons:
Product Development - Knowing exactly what your clients need means you can tweak your existing products or services to suit them better, or come up with entirely new offerings altogether.
Higher Engagement - Knowing what makes your customers tick means you can create content that is more likely to appeal to them; research by the Aberdeen Group found that personalised emails improve click-through rates by 14%.
Better ROI - When you know which leads are more likely to convert, you can prioritise those instead of chasing prospects that are unlikely to complete a purchase.
Time-Saving - Although putting together your buyer profiles takes a little effort, in the long run it'll save you time by allowing you to identify and qualify leads more easily; particularly if you're using a B2B directory.
As is shown in the image above from eMedia's B2B Lead Generation report, not having a full insight into your buyers is one of the biggest obstacles to successful B2B lead generation. However, building a buyer profile isn't difficult; it requires no real technical know-how but instead simply involves looking at previous customers and market experience.
There are several potential methods when it comes to determining your market share. However, the technique we’ll talk you through is one of the most effective. Why? Because it’s visual and highly customizable.
It’s called The Hexagon Method and (you guessed it) it involves drawing a hexagon shape to start.
Once you’ve drawn it, the next step is to select two of your main competitors and at the every hexagon edge (not side) list one to six main benefits a customer gets if working with that competitor. The important part here is to list the benefits not the advantages, because there’s a big difference between the two:
Advantages are the things that give you an edge over your competitors, and vice versa. It maybe something like your location (you are closer to the potential customer), or you have more specialized professionals and your work is done quicker etc - you get the idea.
Benefits, on the other hand, are those things that your customers gain by choosing your business, like an accessible database, more products to choose from, more access or customization and so on.
In order for the method to work you should consider only the benefits that you have in common with your competitors, not the advantages. Take a look at Image 1 below for reference.
The third step is to analyze objectively how that benefit is met on the customer side.
Choose a value from the centre, between one and ten - 10 being over delivery and 1 being under delivery at the lowest possible level. Realistically, you should find yourself focusing on values between 4-8, since there's no business which delivers the maximum and (hopefully!) no business that functions so poorly to be considered a 1. (If you do find a competitor that's this low in the scale, it's probably not worth taking the time to analyse it).
The purpose of this exercise is to see where are the gaps in the market are, so your product or service can offer a competitive benefit. That’s why it’s worth considering the most powerful competitors, or at least those competitors you are able to surpass.
So, let’s move on.
The 4th step is to cross a line between each of those 6 main benefits, joining up the points, as is demonstrated in Image 2 above. By doing this you'll be able to see which benefits are covered and which are available to dominate.
This should give you a more specific market share view; those market gaps are the areas where you should focus your marketing and product development efforts.
These 4 steps are just the basic ones. You can develop your ideas further and do the same analysis with other aspects of your business, for example, you could use the hexagon method:
To compare customer service (including tools used, response time and other relevant data)
To compare common content strategy tools (what your competitors are publishing, what channels they’re using, what topics and storylines they’re covering...)
To compare digital performance data like: which technology your competitors are using on their websites, the tools they’re using for email marketing and other digital data you may consider important
The backbone of this method is the final step, no matter the analysis done before - counting all values and getting a clear picture of your market share, as is shown in Image 3.
Having clear and well-defined aims are essential for success, so it’s not surprising that in 2016 the biggest challenge to marketers was a ‘lack of strategy’, according to research from the DMA.
Assuming you all know about what SMART goals are (hint: it’s an acronym), we’ll skip the basic information and get straight to the checklist.
When talking about Specific goals, we first need to take a look at our existing client base, but using the new insights we got from the hexagon method analysis.
Let’s say your name is John Doe, and you are offering business development strategy services and other companies are learning about you on your website. Your two main competitors have similar websites, similar pricing and a similar team, but their delivery time is within 10 business days.
Assuming you found that this is one of the market gaps you have the potential to cover, you may consider setting a specific goal of delivering your final service within 5 days, including the weekend, all the year round. By implementing just that one change, you’ve hit your competition where it hurts and potentially swiped lucrative deals from straight under them.
Imagine a common problem in your industry is over-returning business strategies, specifically the mid term business strategies. By using the hexagon method you found that your two main competitors are dealing with this issue by limiting the number of returns to three alongside offering refunds if something is underdone.
Now, let’s assume that you have found that this problem is present not only amongst your competitors, but also in similar markets (i.e. marketing consulting). In order to stand out from the crowd, you decide to make your customers a promise along the lines of:
“We’ll deliver your final strategy as quickly as 5 regular days, including holidays, and we’ll re-make it unlimited times, until you get what you want from a business development strategy, free of charge - all the expenses included in the main strategy price!”
By looking at gaps in the market on a deeper level, you've been able to set a specific goal:
To deliver the final business strategy within five regular days, all year round, including holidays
To re-make every bit of a strategy, unlimited times, until your clients are pleased
This is worth remembering when it comes to building your contact list; look at the gaps in the market and then, where possible, fact-check these issues against X number of companies you are planning to contact.
We all know that you can’t grow and scale something you can’t measure. This is a basic marketing concept - so how do we implement this within our list building process?
Firstly, when building a valuable list, it’s worth considering each step a potential customer needs to take, in order to close a sale and become a referral. Some examples I’d suggest here are:
Cold meetings (if there are events you’re attending)
This should be the upper section of the pipeline.
Setting up meetings
Setting follow up calls
Setting follow up emails aka the start of an email drip campaign
Defining the Table of Requirements (TOR)
This is a step we take after presenting our company, our services and other details worth mentioning, at the meetings, or prospecting calls. Emails should be considered if you didn’t get the first response, leaving you without the actual interest qualification. One thing you can do here is tag a certain client and begin a nurturing campaign.
The price estimation
The referral chain
Well, that’s pretty much the main steps when it comes to sales stages...
Now in order to get a better understanding of what to expect from your sales pipeline, and to check if you've done the previous steps correctly, it's all about measuring.
A measured goal may be something like call duration, call costs, email response time etc, just to name a few. However, it's far better to have specific goals that give your team a clear idea of what's expected. Some good measurable goals could be:
To convert a certain prospect within 3 to 5 follow-up calls, or
To minimize the steps to the closure by including a TOR talk within the first 3 calls
To convert a prospect after 3 follow-up emails and 2 calls
.....and so on. The idea is to measure the most important tasks in order to get an idea of what needs to be improved.
Attainable also means realistic goals; something that goes hand in hand with the concept of market validation. At its main core, market validation is an interview of potential customers, or a focus group. But don’t worry - this isn’t a necessity.
Market validation should come as a lean startup solution, or (to be more clear) by testing and learning continuously.
Back to basics; when you have a team of just two people who’ll make the calls and when you have at least 10 staff members on your sales team, your possibilities are way different, because you have more resources at hand.
So, when coming up with attainable goals, you have to think in terms of what is really possible with a little push and what may be possible further down the line - when more resources become available to you. Think multiply the numbers by 50% and define an attainable goal that is also realistically done with the help of the same resources.
Some examples of attainable goals may be:
To get 20 new leads weekly in 30 days, when you’re currently achieving 7-10 per week
To get 1000 new website visitors weekly in 30 days, when your current count is 500 organic and 700 paid.
An attainable goal should be attained with secure steps taken each and every working day. For instance, you cannot guarantee a 100% conversion rate, or that a newbie sales rep will convert as many prospects as an experienced one. Realistic goals are not very engaging for a sales rep who has a goal of converting all his or her prospects, or a business owner who wants to get all the leads who are interacting with sales dep.
So, an attainable goal that’s realistically set sounds something like:
Each sales rep who works at least 6 months, should convert 4 from 10 prospects and
Each sales rep should convert 2 from 10 prospects during their first 2 months.
These examples must be adapted by your own business model, however, the main idea is that an attainable goal should be realistic to get accomplished, but still maintains a certain level of pressure that builds discipline.
When having a time frame and tracking if your prospect list gets well worked out, it’s easier to make things time-bound. That means not trying to do as much as possible in as little as possible time. It means something more counter-intuitive like focusing on fewer calls in fewer working hours instead. In the US, some sales reps work four hours a day - this is worth pointing out because, as we all know, negations are common and consume a lot of energy. This becomes a problem when someone works in sales for more than six hours, even with a lunch break. And this is mainly because with lower energy levels, you begin under delivering and the quality of your sales efforts drop significantly.
A time bound goal, when building your list may be:
To have the list ready within two days
To contact 20 companies daily
A time bound goal should not be set for how long a call should be or how much time a complete customer journey should take, because as some stats are saying, the majority of transactions occur between the fifth and 12th contact. This means you have to follow up your prospect at least five times, in order to begin seeing results.
To put it simply, firmographics are just demographics for businesses. They're a collection of attributes that each organisation has, that you can use to find your target market. An example of this could be using them to learn where in the world your ideal customers are based, and which niche they're in.
Having access to this type of data is beneficial to your business for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it provides you with a great foundation enabling you to identify the most suitable leads, and then to improve your marketing strategy so you have the best chance at engaging them. Being that firmographics are relatively low cost when it comes to implementing them into your strategy, you can enjoy a better ROI, and you'll also find that they make the process of qualifying leads much simpler - particularly when using a B2B database provider that offers a range of filtering tools.
When building a list of companies you are planning to contact, you need to begin filtering the data your get, in order to avoid double cleansing your data. It’s worth considering the main metrics and company information in order to build a list of organisations who are more likely to be interested in your product or service.
The first set of factors that are widely available fall under the category of company information.
This includes details such as:
How much employees a company has
When the company was founded
How the company is held (privately-held or in partnership)
Company revenue (some sources)
When working with your chosen data provider, you may find you don't need all of this information; for example, you might just be interested in gathering contact details. However, if you plan on using more detailed data in your sales script, you'll definitely need it at hand.
Now let’s imagine you’re the same John Doe selling business development strategy services as in our example from earlier. You have a basic idea of the main concerns that your potential clients have based on previous experience with buyers, but are looking to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.
From the start, it should be worth considering the size of a company, in order to pre-define a relevant pricing model. A company with 10 employees will obviously have different needs and budget restraints when compared to an enterprise with 500+ employees.
Years in operation is also an important factor to bear in mind, because a newly-established company is less stable and more unpredictable than one that has already been around for over a decade. It's also suggested that a company aged between three and five years will be at their most unpredictable stage of life, with a large number of changes occurring during that period. So, if as in our example, you're offering business development services, you'd probably want to target companies at this stage rather than those that have been around for longer and are more set in their ways.
The strategies between these two are clearly way different, as are their business goals. Therefore, it might be a good idea to separate these types of companies by:
Another thing you might take into consideration is how these companies are held. When reaching out to decision makers who are also the only owners of a company, the approach will usually be more direct and the transaction is likely to run more smoothly. In contrast, when a company is held by a group of people, the arguments should differ, mainly because these people have different roles in a company - someone is more operations oriented, someone more people-oriented and so on.
So when choosing the companies you’re about to contact, this is another potentially useful factor to use to narrow your search.
When it comes to the overall success of your marketing campaigns, the thing that is perhaps most crucial is being able to reach the decision maker at each organisation. Of course, this may mean needing to open a dialogue with more than one person in the case of organisations with several key executives, but ultimately it's worth doing as regardless of the company size, turnover, or age, this is the key factor that will have the biggest impact on your sales success.
When talking about C level, it really depends on what product or service you’re offering, as this changes the way your sales script is prepared. Another important factor to keep in mind is that when you sell highly professional services - which usually imply larger budgets and bigger expenses - it can be less effective trying to prospect the company owner.
For this kind of situation, it’s usually better to prospect middle managers, due to the fact that:
Middle managers usually have high priority tasks (that came from the top)
Middle managers usually have at least one problem to solve
A six month digital marketing strategy, taking on two new interns, implementing the new website design - all of these are high priority tasks in certain situations. What does this mean for you? It means you can meet these requests with your solution, be it consulting or the actual technical task. IF you can offer a quick solution, you’re on fire.
Each manager has at least one problem to solve - be it getting new leads, more conversions, recruiting qualified talent and so on. You can benefit from these problems and offer a quick fix with a higher price tag.
You solve the problem and if your solution is really that good, the manager you’ve prospected is at your part and you’ll only need to convince him in order to sell your service or product. The job after that is done by the manager himself, which in the end means money in your pocket.
Also, a prospected and satisfied manager will fit a good recommendation for future inquiries, product upsells and even new business.
This will actually depend on how much time a specific employee has worked in the company, especially if he or she is in middle management. This will impact on the potential of a sales closure, because a person who has worked longer in a company is usually more credible, and your chances of getting already qualified leads are much greater than if someone's only been there a couple of months.
There are certain cases when a middle manager who's only been at the company for a few months may also be a good fit. However, working with such a person might also become a problem if they feel pressured to deliver something of value as a matter of urgency to their boss.
So take this into consideration and adapt your strategy; it's a good idea to separate these two types of seniors, mainly because more metrics will be distorted, due to the big difference between the two.
Segmentation by industry is probably one of the most obvious aspects of firmographics, but for good reason; taking the time to gain a clear understanding of the niches that your audience are operating in undoubtedly makes your marketing much more effective. Industry firmographics are pretty straight forward; you really just need to look at the types of products/services your customers are selling, and who they're selling them to.
Industry firmographic data is rather basic, but important. By having a clear idea of the industries engaging with your brand, you'll know which channels are most likely to reach them, e.g. specialist blogs, trade magazines, or special events such as trade shows or conferences. It can even help with product development, once you know the challenges and needs of your audience.
Looking at industry data combined with location information can also be extremely useful. For example, if you find that the industry you're targeting is well developed in certain regions, you can look at expanding your business efforts there, once you've researched how much competition you're up against.
Staying informed on what's happening overall in the industries you're targeting is also incredibly important. If you're following the highs and lows you'll be able to adapt your marketing strategy accordingly. For example, if there are seasonal highs you can adjust your price points, or if the industry economy is suffering you can offer discounts or special offers.
If you've looked at which industries are buying from you, you might find that there's one you didn't realise you were selling to. With this information you'll then be able to begin targeting that new industry alongside your usual audience, creating a wealth of new sales opportunities.
On the other hand, if you didn't take the time to look at the industries you're serving, you are likely to miss out on possible opportunities to boost sales such as annual shows, etc., and you may have allowed a competitor to monopolise the market and build a strong sense of brand awareness while you've been targeting a different niche. Or you might start a campaign in a new region, and without taking the time to research first, found that your target industry is saturated there, or they're just isn't the demand for what you're offering.
When talking about geo data, it’s worth mentioning that when scaling a business, one of the main issues becomes distance; especially if you’re working in a non-tech industry, where people don’t usually use web tools, tracking or project management tools. It’s worth noting that, when filtering the geo data, you should be able to build a relationship with that supplier, so it may be better to meet in person first.
So, it’s better to start working on your list, with this in mind. Even though it shouldn't be a problem when prospecting, one of the main goals in a business relationship is communication, so in order to start on good footing, it’s better to address these concerns at the beginning.
It may sound very basic, but in the long run, the distance between the coworkers/suppliers/shareholders may become a problem, even if you're all set and things go well enough inside your projects.
When we’re talking about supplying or selling physical products to other markets, involving geographical barriers, things go a bit easier, as soon as the main concern is delivery and tracking. In today’s market, you can always automate some processes to make things smoother.
Look at Amazon; almost 60% of their workload is done by robots and other machinery that keeps working 24/7, even when we’re sleeping.
Of course, this is a pretty lofty example, but there are some basic processes you can automate in your own business - more on this later.
If you've done your homework and found that a large majority of your customers are located in one region, you'll be able to focus your marketing activities there. Also, if you were to notice a growing number of customers from an emerging market, you could offer different price points to entice a larger proportion of businesses from that region to purchase from you
In contrast, if you know little about where your buyers are based, and move headquarters or open a new branch and find that your customers are located somewhere else, this can easily become a problem. How will clients reach your for meetings or product viewings? If you have a physical product to sell can you ship everything out affordably and quickly?
It’s important to access a company’s financial data when this impacts the final decision-making.
Some data providers help other businesses find the financial data they need, but this information is limited, because you only have the info about the actual turnover, in a certain period of time. This data may not be accurate, which makes things easier from one part, but fairly difficult from another. What I’m saying here is that when you only have one piece of the puzzle, it’s not as easy to understand the stability and feasibility of a company, which potentially means greater risks. Maybe a certain company has a five million revenue (in general), but what about the last five years; was this company as stable and earning the same amounts of money each year, or did it have a sudden windfall, like winning a court battle? You never know what’s behind the curtain, so our recommendation is always to consider using more data to get a clearer picture.
Another important aspect of financial data that is good to give you a more in-depth picture of a company is its credit score. For example, if a company has defaulted on payments, consistently paid late payments or used the maximum amount of credit available to them, they may be experiencing financial difficulties or are simply not handling their cash flow effectively. Similarly, if a company has made a number of credit applications in a short amount of time, it can be a sign that they're not stable; and their credit score will reflect this.
So, basically the main things to look for when accessing financial data about a company are:
The turnover history (preferably showing the last three years)
The credit score (unresolved issues may be a red flag)
When you're working with incomplete information, it's much harder to plan a long-term working strategy. The worst case scenario would be if you've decided to partner with a company without carrying out a thorough due diligence check first, and as a result seeing problems such as unpaid credits and high staff turnover a couple of months down the line.
For most companies, ending up in a situation like this is a lose-lose; cutting your losses and severing ties with the company may leave you open to breach of contract agreements, or customer orders being unfulfilled. On the other hand, continuing the collaboration leaves you open to further (and potentially more serious) damage.
That's why getting a clear picture is vital; the best case scenario is when taken the time to research a company, found they've had a positive credit score for the last 3+ years, alongside a continuous growth in turnover. This type of company is clearly the ideal when it comes to financial history, making them a good partner to work with, or stakeholder if you have common business goals.
Companies looking at digital data and technology use for other businesses for a long time, in order to gain insights about the market or on possible MVPs. While this technique is nothing new, the development of tools to make the process much more efficient have emerged in more recent times, and some database providers offer these insights within their platform.
Companies like Similar Tech offer your an interactive view of how some platforms are performing, who is using them and the overall usage in each country, allowing you to conduct an easy comparison.
Using a feature like this to analyse and compare digital data is worth it when you're planning to launch a product that is specifically targeting tech companies, or if there are possible integrations a company may need in order to get some business activity put in place.
Digital Insights are used in selling purposes too, especially when you have a new lead to process and you have information regarding a certain technology he or she uses.
For example, you've got a new lead who signed up via your website. By accessing digital insights you may instantly find out that he or she uses Ghost as a blogging platform and also that the company where he or she works are using Google AdWords in order to get new leads. You can check the website yourself, see if there is a good response, see how they work with a potential lead and (returning to our earlier example of John Doe) if you’re offering business development strategies as a service, you can develop a business proposal that is good enough and that solves their technical issues.
Something else that makes digital insights so valuable as a business asset is that there are plenty of tools available to monitor the technology types without the hassle of finding it all manually.
The main thing here is that if your have a specific business goal that needs to keep up with current technology trends, you need to see what is happening in your industry regarding the technology you are following. This means you can set up an alert to be notified of a technology change, allowing you to react accordingly.
Let’s assume that you’re a hosting company and you’ve set up an alert to find out when companies change their hosting services. You’ve found that a certain company recently changed their hosting provider; well, that's no big deal. However, if you’re following 10+ companies and you’ve seen that many of them have changed their hosting provider within the last 3 months, then maybe it’s the right time to make an offer to them. So, with just a fews alerts you already have a clearer picture of what's happening in your industry. Even if it’s just a small part, this truly is a good way to begin “spying” on trends.
We’ve analysed a situation where digital insights can be used to make decisions about product development, or setting up a new venture. Well, keeping a careful watch on others' technology use can also be extremely helpful when it comes to providing the greatest possible experience for your potential customers. This involves a lot of variables, beginning from your website design, to website speed, to customer service software, CRM and other tools a business is using to get more control and a competitive advantage over the competition.
Well, technology listening is a great way to see what your competition is doing.
For example, if you've noticed that one of your competitors switched its website to Magento and uses GoDaddy hosting, but the bounce rate on their website hasn't changed much, it can be a good opportunity for you to get ahead. Maybe Magento is good, but what about trialling another platform and faster hosting? You’ll not only get a boost in time spent on site (because it’s pages are opening quicker), you’re also likely to see a lower bounce rate, which in the mid term means you’ll probably see a better ranking in Google. All of this could ultimately lead to boosted sales numbers - even if your product is not that different from your competitor’s.
This way you can track any possible and available technology that your database provider of choice is offering, and you can stay on track regardless of what happens in the industry. This is a huge benefit when launching a startup too, because you don’t only use this data to improve customer service - you may also use it for research purposes to see what makes a good service provider in your industry. Sounds good, right?
Technology listening also helps businesses take control of their overall development strategy, because digital data offers insights on what their competition is doing. So, researching your possible outcomes will be fun and easy using digital insights, which as a result, makes it a business tool worth having in your arsenal.
Once you've taken the time to gain a thorough understanding of your target audience and have built up a highly-targeted contact list, it's time to think about marketing. There are several ways that the database can be incorporated into your activities when putting together a successful strategy, so let's take a more in-depth view of how each of these can work for your business...
When working with a database, you need control. Using a CRM is a good choice if you’re working with numerous clients, if you need to qualify your leads and easily determine which stage each buyer is at, which is probably why the majority (58%) of marketers utilise one as part of their activities, so says eMedia.
In almost every CRM software you can upload your list and then begin prospecting.
Also a good CRM will provide a call tracking solution, so that you can listen to your cold calls, measure the effectiveness of the sales department - in particular each sales rep. - and getting valuable insights regarding specific lists.
Once you’ve set up your CRM, you need to complete the following lead processing steps:
To customise your own sale stages
To decide how often follow-ups are needed, depending on the industry and previous research
To work with interest level prospecting
To set up your closing and referral programs
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps...
The basic sale stages are prospecting, proposal, negotiation, closure. However, depending on your niche, it can be more detailed, or activity oriented. What does this mean?
Basically, at the very generic level, there are 4 main stages: attention, interest, desire and action.
Each of these generic stages should include each marketing and sales activities that have that a goal.
These are the generic sale stages you should be using when planning your lead processing.
However, bear in mind it will look different depending on the niche you’re in.
Based on this info, you may build your own sale stages.
Research suggests that most conversions occur between the 5th and 12th follow-up. Although this will obviously vary depending on things like industry, lead quality and sales strategy, it sends a clear and important message; following up is essential.
One of the most important aspects of selling is finding the balance between being insistent and intrusive. You’ll make some calls, write some emails and then you’ll see what's working and what's not; don't come off as needy or desperate to your leads.
On the other hand, if your email has a nurturing objective, it's a good idea to send a monthly email with all the latest or most engaging articles from that month.
Of course, it doesn't have to be just articles; it could be any other type of content you're using to nurture your leads - you’ll never know who may recommend you and if you’re sending a batch of your monthly most-read/recent articles, it's a good way to be present in the heads of your prospects, without being annoying.
No matter the marketing channel, there will always be people who:
Spend most of the time on your website
Always react to your social media posts
Comment on and share your ideas and so on...
On the other hand, there are people who only need one piece of information, one time, and then leave. Both are important, because you never know if the person who is thus far been unengaged with your brand will reach out again after seeing something of interest. And of course, when talking about interest level, you should always keep in mind that around 70% of all those interacting with your brand have a passive interest. Again, this doesn't mean that they'll never convert; it may be that they're not ready to purchase just yet.
Working with interest level prospecting is valuable for:
you can target those top 10% of people who spend most of the time on your website
you can remarket to those who have expressed interest on certain pages
you can adapt your general marketing strategy (involving SEO and even your website design) in order to get more conversions from similar leads
you can qualify interested leads and work with the passive ones with more content-related or demo-related follow-ups. Remember that those people need to trust you in order to be more prepared to buy your products or use your services.
you can qualify the interest and work with the active ones at the bottom of the sales funnel, where you need fewer steps in order to convert
after you’ve contacted all the people in the list, using cold calling for example, you can segment further and with these segments, work on other business tools such as email marketing.
Too many people think that closing is the final step in the sales cycle. However, from another standpoint, closing is one of the most important stages in the customer lifecycle...and we’re not talking about the actual payment, but rather what happens right after that.
Problem is, the approach in working with the right-after-payment stage may not just be used here. This same approach may be used at any other conversion stage, be it after signing up to a newsletter, getting that free eBook you’ve opted in for, after payment for a digital product, or booking a demo.
So, what’s the catch?
Simply put, that exact moment when a person converts, is the best moment to express your gratitude by giving something as valuable as the actual conversion.
You get set up a system where someone is taken to a thank you page after completing a contact form, offering them exclusive access to discounted products. You might add a message like:
“Thanks for reaching out! To show our appreciation we'd like to invite you to check out these great discounts we offer only select users”
then add a link that takes them to a page with three to nine discounted products (if you’re in retail).
The good thing about this set-up is that it's pretty basic to implement; so no coding or special copywriting skills are needed, and it should take very little time. The results can be impressive though, and it also works well as a great referral system... “See these guys? I completed their contact form and they offered me a great discount! Nice!“
Such an approach is used in upselling. However, the problem here is that when someone makes a purchase, they don't necessarily want to buy anything else, so the option to skip upselling pages would benefit your business.
Another key takeaway here is that if you’re upselling using more pages after the first sale, you should minimise the options. It's rarely the case that first time buyers will purchase everything at once; they might just be trialling your products or the quality of your customer service, or they simply may not be able to afford any add-ons. Going hard on the up-sell in the latter case can end up being particularly damaging as the customer will remember your aggressive sales pushing and that you made them feel cheap.
This is why it's important to focus on permission marketing primarily; don't forget that despite all the advances in technology and digital marketing, when it comes down to it, it's still the customer that holds the power.
Your customers are like kids. At least, this can be a useful way to think of them in order to put their needs first. A single bad review or one single issue will drive them crazy and you can lose everything you’ve built, with a single bad marketing decision.
So, when it comes to referral systems, please keep in mind that a good referral is:
Relevant: what the customers wants they get and it's the right buyer persona for you
Satisfied: when using permission marketing, you’ll always get good results, because you learn about your customers as part of the process. Pushing rarely helps, and even if it does, it's only a short term strategy that will not give value in the long-run.
A customer with a genuine interest: Keep in mind that only a small percentage of your actual customers will be valuable as referrals, because it's only likely to be those that have purposefully sought out your products that are invested enough to share them.
Bearing all of this in mind is important because, as is evidenced in the graph below from HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound report, the majority of business buyers still rely on word of mouth when it comes to purchasing decisions.
Email marketing can be extremely effective; three-quarters of companies agree that email offers "excellent" to "good" ROI according to Econsultancy, and as the graph below from the DMA shows, it is still considered very important to the majority of companies.
Another big bonus is that it's much simpler than you might think. Just upload your contact list to your email marketing software of choice and you're good to go.
For a more comprehensive way to process your leads, you first need to create a plan using insights about open rates, conversion rates, click-through rates and the general campaign performance.
You can then use this rough data in order to develop an automated campaign, that will work on interest level and automate your email activities. This is definitely worth doing; Nucleus Research estimates that marketing automation can lead to a 12.2% reduction in marketing overheads, and 91% of the most successful users agree that marketing automation is 'very important' to their overall marketing success, according to Marketo.
You can use automated marketing to send emails automatically to someone who's interacted with your business in some way; for example if they've subscribed to your email list. You could take this one step further and set up drip campaigns; sending out emails automatically on certain dates, working to a predetermined schedule with pre-written content. This not only saves time and ensures you don't forget to reach out to each lead, it also sees better results; research by Silverpop discovered that open rates for drip emails are around 80% higher than single sends and click-through rates are also improved - SmartTouch found that the highest-performing 25% of drip emails had click-through rates of more than 27%, compared to a rate of 8% for the highest-performing single sends, as shown in the graph below.
You can also segment various email contacts depending on the level of interest people expressed earlier when you’ve cold called them, before you’ve even used these contacts in your drip campaign. This is really powerful when:
you have specific products for a specific market
you have more products with various level of interest in that products
you have one main product you’re selling via email and you’re testing it
Your marketing manager can segment all of these separately and create custom campaigns for each segment, giving you greater control over your strategy. The value of this can’t be underestimated; which is why - as is shown in the image below from Salesforce Research - the majority of businesses are prioritising segmentation.
This will help you get more valuable insights regarding specific segments, but it does involve some risks like status duplication.
For these reasons only, if you’re just starting to work with your list of companies to contact, it's better to begin everything at a broader level. Then, after getting your first insights, you’ll have more relevant information which you can use for further marketing activities.
Then, last but not least, your actual clients (or converters) may be used in other ways such as Digital Advertising.
While once upon a time it may have been the norm to forget about customers as soon as they've converted into paying customers, nowadays more companies are realising the value of LTV (Lifetime Value) marketing. The idea is simple: instead of allowing your leads to fall from your radar completely after making a purchase, you should aim to keep them engaged with your brand with the aim of targeting them with products and information that may be of interest to them, leading to further sales.
Why is this so important? Well, for one thing, previous customers are much easier to convert; in his book Marketing Metrics, expert Paul Farris suggests repeat buyers have a 60-70% chance of making another purchase. What’s more, repeat buyers are more likely to spend higher amounts, as the graph below from Bain & Company shows.
The world of digital advertising now has a number of options available to make this much easier - let's explore just some of these tools and techniques in more detail.
This is usually a good place to start... creating different segments within your contact list based on the level of interaction each user has had with your brand will allow you to target each group differently. You could take into consideration things like email opens, social media comments and shares, and website views, as well as where they are in the sales cycle.
Using this kind of segmentation ultimately allows you to let your audience be your guide; offer more to those who are interacting more with your business, while looking to build a sense of trust and familiarity for those who are not so engaged.
It can be a very powerful tool for encouraging conversions; take a look at the image below taken from eMedia’s B2B Lead Generation report - the majority of businesses surveyed state that segmenting based on buyer stage is the most effective email topic, with behaviour-based segmentation not far behind.
Lookalike audiences enable you to target potential customers who share things in common with those that have interacted with your brand before. This could be based on any of the firmographic factors mentioned earlier, and is a great way to reach businesses and individuals who are likely to have an interest in your company, but for whatever reason aren't yet acquainted with it.
Ultimately this method will give you a much better chance at finding better qualified leads; which as is shown in the image below from eMedia’s B2B Lead Generation report, is now the main priority for the majority of businesses.
Other uses of these audiences may involve:
Split testing the text (longer, shorter, more salesly, more friendly, more official)
A/B testing the images (with variations like with/without people faces)
With/without buttons on image
Various images sizes
Storylines (more commercial, more informative)
All these tests will be useful for sales and marketing purposes later on.
Once you've got your lookalike audiences set up using your contact list as source data, you can trial Facebook's Lead Ads feature. It enables you to place ads as normal in Facebook and Instagram, but the big difference is that when someone clicks on the ad, instead of being taken to an outside site, a form pops up in-app and is automatically populated using their social media profile. This means you can gain data such as full name, email, address, phone number, company name and job title, with greater chances of conversions and less false data. Clearly, these types of ads are working wonders for many companies; research by Marketo found that over 25% of businesses are spending over a quarter of their marketing budget on social media ads alone - is your company missing out?
With today’s massive amount of technology opportunities and high levels of accessibility, you can build contact lists in ways that are pretty unimaginable and highly customisable at the same time.
Back to the processes we discussed in this document, at this time, you should know that all the options you have available (but still, almost basic ones) are:
To know the potential of your business and actually understand your market share opportunity
To define goals specifically targeting the potential to reach and when getting deeper into companies data
To filter your prospect list by: company information, seniority level, industry, geolocation, financial and digital data and then use your pre-defined prospect list
In a CRM system, email marketing campaigns and even digital advertising from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many others.
These filters may be used as-they-are or if you want to get fancy, you can dive deeper into data and use even more custom data in order to build your list of companies to contact further and grow your business. At Global Database, we offer a free demo so you can see how everything looks inside our platform and if it suits your business’ needs.
But for now, happy list building!
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