The B2B sales cycle has undergone a complete change, and recent statistics revealed that the length of the B2B sales cycle process is shrinking as prospects engage later after doing their own research.
With the move online, marketers have an even more important role to play in capturing prospects’ attention as they do their research to generate, nurture, and deliver more sales-ready leads. That means taking a new approach to how leads are managed, scored, and measured and what steps are taken to move prospects along the sales funnel.
The latest thinking and approaches from leading marketing organizations shows that combining automated lead management with content marketing strategies and closer sales and marketing alignment can deliver more Sales-ready leads.
Here is what marketers should do to achieve exactly that.
1. Think Micro
Today’s marketers have to provide significant amounts of content to pull prospects in and keep them engaged. While content such as case studies, white papers, and blogs on your company website plays a crucial part in this, developing a "micro-content" strategy is also key.
"Micro content" refers to the comments that you post on social media and on other people’s blogs. With a strategic approach, micro content can help drive inbound marketing leads into your sales funnel that you can then score and nurture until they are sales ready.
It’s not just about written content either, as today’s web-savvy audiences expect interactivity, images, and videos. Your overall content strategy has to include everything from the look and feel of your site(s) and tone of voice.
Getting your content and micro content strategy right can drive engagement levels and position you as a thought leader in your field, so that when people want what you sell, your company will be the first that comes to mind.
2. Measure Everything
"Everything" may be a slight overstatement---but the marketing automation solutions available today mean that the data available can give much deeper insights into buyer behavior.
By establishing a lead scoring process based on the digital behavior your prospects exhibit you can ensure that the qualification process is robust enough to improve the quality of the leads that you deliver to the sales team.
Research by Aberdeen Group has shown that best-in-class businesses using marketing automation to score and nurture leads have 40% of the sales pipeline coming directly for marketing generated leads. Combining the functionality of marketing automation with these B2B Lead Management 6 Best Practices will see the number of leads accepted by the sales team improve significantly.
3. Work Together
One of the biggest problems businesses face in taking advantage of the opportunities that the digital world brings is that their sales and marketing teams don’t work together.
In the best-performing organizations, sales and marketing are closely aligned and meet 69% more frequently than in other companies, resulting in 31.6% year-on-year annual growth, compared to the industry average 18.2% growth.
The latest version of the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall, which was released in summer 2012, shows how the sales and marketing teams should be brought together to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the lead management process instead of wasting time, money and resources working independently to achieve the same goals.
To be successful both sales and marketing need to recognize their specific accountabilities and understand how they are related. The following are some of the questions that need to be asked throughout the process.
- Marketing: How many enquiries can be generated?
- Sales: How much is needed at the top of the pipeline?
- Marketing: What are the lead conversion rates?
- Sales: Are all marketing-qualified leads being tracked throughout the pipeline?
- Sales: What is the win rate per lead source?
By combining closer sales and marketing alignment with marketing automation solutions, inbound marketing, and well-defined content strategies to manage and nurture leads, businesses have been shown to generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost.