Praise of the unworthy is robbery of the deserving.”
If, like me, you’ve been involved in business development for any length of time, you can’t have helped noticing the seismic shift that has taken place in lead generation practice during recent years.
Much of this change, of course, can be attributed to the digital revolution. But I believe also that we’ve seen a fundamental change in attitude on the part of the B2B buyer. First of all in matters of choice: not so long ago it was extremely difficult to compare the market for better value products and services without doing an awful lot of footwork. An even then, it was all but impossible to get any kind of reliable feedback from like-minded business consumers, at least not without accosting people in the street.
With blogging and business networking all of that has changed. We now have the wherewithal to conduct instantaneous market research at the click of a mouse. And this ties in with the second big change: the way we allow ourselves to be sold to.
More than ever before, buyers are bombarded with a confusing array of similar sounding marketing messages from competing vendors. For this reason, if your marketing isn’t to fall on deaf ears, you need to make sure your message gets heard over the noise of your competitors.
Reaching senior decision makers
The majority of B2B buying decisions rely on the approval of senior managers, and this is especially true with big-ticket items. The problem for marketers is that most senior managers are kept beyond their reach. In fact many are openly hostile to unsolicited marketing. More and more, marketers are being thwarted by spam filters, voicemail and impassable gate keepers. So how can you get your message to resonate with senior managers?
The art of engagement
The art of engagement is to provide information that buyers actually need; to give them a reason for wanting to opt-in to your marketing. Most cold sales pitches these days are greeted with a ‘So what?’ or ‘What else would you say?’ response from prospects. But to influence the opinions of modern buyers we need to actually shape the buying process itself.
Prospects will often keep marketers at arm’s length until the buying process is well underway. The result is that the marketer becomes involved only after requirements have been set and a competitive bidding process is happening. The challenge for the marketer is to become involved earlier in the buying cycle. This means creating a sustained dialogue.
Sustained dialogues generate demand
No one would deny that it’s a challenge to identify buyers who are actively looking for a solution. But it’s important to remember that active buyers are vastly outnumbered by those people who may not have a budget now, but will have one at some point down the line and, just as importantly, the many potential prospects who may not even be aware that they have a need – at least not until you have educated them. Identifying and communicating this group is what demand generation is all about.
With the right processes in place it is possible to dovetail your traditional lead generation programme (i.e. contacting the minority of prospects who are actively looking now) with an effective demand generation programme designed to nurture contacts for the future. In other words, you get the best of both worlds: a select number of ready buyers, backed up with a steadily replenishing sales pipeline.
An effective demand generation programme will unearth latent needs, generate demand where none apparently exists and prompt those who are not yet in buying mode to take action. If you don’t yet have one in place, I strongly recommend that you consider it.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading and, as ever, your comments and ideas are very welcome.
And always to a higher response!