For B2B companies that want to survive on the market over the long term, simply maintaining a single website and advertising in trade magazines will no longer suffice. Today’s customer has 24/7 access to information and has high expectations of products, service and communication. To meet these high expectations, it is important to build up good content marketing. As the market shows, the use of high-quality content to convince prospects of the benefits of an organization, product or service to provide solutions to specific problems can be a decisive factor in the success of B2B companies.
B2B is going digital
The first step for 90 percent of decision-makers is to collect information by looking for a B2B solution online via Google. The focus here is on a targeted search for a solution to a problem. This is why B2B companies have to understand their customers’ customer journey if they want to systematically establish contact with potential customers. It is important to provide them with information through a variety of formats and channels. Ideally, the format of the content will reflect the potential customer’s position along the purchasing-decision process. Companies need to consider how they address the customer’s key problems, along with the channels through which they deliver content to reach their own target group.
Cultivating and qualifying contacts
A qualification process also known as “lead-nurturing” must be set up to turn a prospect into a customer. A lead might be a person who, through a certain action such as subscribing to a newsletter, exhibits a general interest in a company’s offerings. This “loose” contact request does not permit many conclusions about the customer’s possible problems, purchasing intentions or subsequent journey. The challenge for B2B marketers is to convey relevant content to the prospective customer and “nurture” that lead in spite of a lack of information about the particular prospect.
Once user data have been submitted, the qualification of contacts begins through follow-up with other relevant formats, such as offers on use cases or webinars on specific topics. A company’s products and services should be viewed as secondary in this respect, since professional lead management is about conveying expert knowledge, credibility and added value. This way, prospects can be further qualified and assessed step by step. When assessing the contacts identified, scoring models can be used to rate the potential willingness to buy based on defined criteria.
Rating and assessing leads
Different levels of lead qualification can then be developed on the basis of a scorecard. A prerequisite for this: the contact must have consented to collection of his or her personal data. Only then can a lead be enriched with data and the individual’s behavior understood with regard to the receipt of newsletters or new blog posts. A scoring model then helps to make the data usable for assessment and should be individually tailored based on the company’s marketing and sales objectives.
When assessing leads, it is good if marketing and sales managers work together closely to specify which activities are going to be assessed and how. Once a pre-set score has been reached – based on factors such as click and opening rates for articles and e-mails or whitepaper downloads – an individually qualified lead is then passed along to sales staff.
Quality costs money – but is necessary
The content used in content marketing has a variety of roles to play for B2B companies: They increase SEO discoverability, position a company as an expert and use these to generate leads. The content must be of a certain quality if this is to succeed; this, in turn, calls for personnel, time and thus financial resources as well. In addition to potential customers, Google also takes an increasingly close look at the quality of content and has even developed its own guidelines for this – the Quality Rater Guidelines. Particularly in the B2B setting, where complex topics with technical depth are often involved, high-quality content should be produced that offers added value for the user.
Marketing and sales are closing ranks – thanks to software solutions
As soon as a lead has compiled enough points and is thus qualified, the next step is to pass them along to sales for further processing as quickly as possible. So the leads generated have to be assessed and analyzed as quickly as possible. A sales representative then takes over and can, for example, initiate a personal call or an appointment for a product presentation. In this process, CRM software provides a link between marketing and sales and oversees the entire process. There are many CRM solutions, such as HubSpot, Marketo or Salesforce, that can monitor multiple campaigns at the same time and bundle, select and clearly display contact and data streams to permit some parts of campaigns to be carried out automatically. The parts of a campaign that software solutions can automatically take over include, for example, the forwarding of leads to sales staff, campaign reporting and ongoing qualification of leads through e-mail, social media or other channels.
The bottom line: The only way to accomplish this is hand-in-hand
Professional lead management is a success factor for generating contacts with revenue relevance. Content marketing in its various iterations plays a key role here in persuading customers of a company and its offerings while building trust. Ideally, digital content marketing in its various formats provides sales support to generate attractive contacts for a company on the basis of relevant content. This is how the processing of data-driven interest potentials and the exchange of contact data can turn a casual contact request into a customer with a willingness to invest.