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3 essential tips to engage best-fit prospects with your B2B demand generation

A busy sales pipeline is great, but it only if it is filled with genuine opportunities that will actually convert into sales, says Yvonne Deegan. She shares three ways you can target these best-fit prospects

Attracting best-fit prospects into the sales funnel from demand generation activities consistently proves one of the most significant challenges for B2B marketers. But rather than tweak activities and roll out other tactics only to observe minimal impact on ROI, it’s time to take a step back and review your demand generation strategy in its entirety.

I’ve put together three key steps we see as essential, based on our insights from working with B2B clients across a variety of sectors, to ensure your demand generation plan can engage the awareness and attention of best-fit prospects.

1. Establish the attributes of your ideal customers

How can you define your ideal customers? Regardless of industry, before putting pen to paper on a B2B demand generation plan, it’s important to develop a precise ideal target profile for the solution in question or the market segment you wish to engage.

Typical approach: Targeting an audience profile based on broad demographics is an all too common mistake in B2B marketing. Refining your audience to just the top 1,000 manufacturing companies in the UK or software companies in Canada won’t be precise enough for effective demand generation. Media budget can be quickly absorbed without reaching best-fit prospects.

It can also be tempting to work on assumptions or weak signals, such as the performance of one past campaign, to create an audience profile. However, from our experience, this usually leads us into the trap of investing time and money in chasing the wrong type of client.

Best-practice approach:

• Conduct in-depth research: Try to use a variety of different sources to hone in on your best-fit target profile; read industry surveys, press interviews and reports, talk to current customers, hold a brainstorm with sales teams, review competitor customer profiles and glean data from past campaigns. It’s important not to skip out on going deep with this key step as we have found that collectively, these research activities will help you to uncover a range of insights regarding the specific attributes and behaviours of best-fit clients. We’ve always found that the investment of time on this step to really be worthwhile.

• Define an ‘ideal target profile’ for each market segment: We recommend using an array of different attributes to target your precise audience, for example:

  • Location: Refine geographic targeting to specific countries and even further, by region or state, if possible.
  • Sub-sector or company: Reign in your focus to the specific sub-sectors who have the most significant need for your product or service, i.e. semiconductor manufacturers, investment management companies or cloud communications providers. Or even more precisely, a set list of company names who would be best-fit clients, can producs much more effective ROI than targeting an entire industry such as manufacturing, financial services or telecommunications.
  • Company size: Determine the company size of your ideal clients based on annual revenue figures or number of employees, whichever is more relevant.
  • Job titles: Identify the job titles of individuals likely to be tasked with buying your product or service or who would most identify a need for your offering i.e. project engineers, compliance managers and EHS directors rather than targeting general job functions like engineering, legal and health and safety to further eliminate exposure to irrelevant audiences. Identify which job titles constitute decision-makers and which are decision influencers as you may want to place more focus and budget on your key decision makers.

Additional criteria: Not all companies who meet the above criteria will be ‘best-fit’ so it can be useful to identify any other relevant indicators that may further refine your targeting to reach and engage best-fit prospects such as:

  • Current IT systems/software in place i.e. Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Epicor ERP, AutoCAD
  • Current machinery/processes/solutions i.e. Use of specific CNC lathes in manufacturing, processing of EDI files in accounts department etc.
  • Internal staffing structures i.e. if a full in-house IT team in place, unlikely to need support from a managed IT services provider
  • Number of offices/global locations.

2. Identify tactics that can target your precise audience

How can you market to your best-fit prospects? With your ideal audience profile defined, you can select demand generation tactics that will get you directly in front of this exact audience, ensuring investment only on exposure to best-fit prospects.

Typical approach: Broad advertising campaigns, generic search campaigns and display media are often used to fill the top of the funnel. The result however is that media budgets are usually quickly absorbed without reaching best-fit prospects.

While broadly targeted advertising can enhance brand awareness, when it comes to demand generation, you will maximise ROI when you rely on tactics and channels which offer precise targeting capabilities.

Best-practice approach: Adopt tactics for complete profile targeting. Try to identify which demand generation tactics enable you to target an audience based on all the key criteria of your ideal buyer profile, not just some of the characteristics. Remember, quality and not quantity is key; a bigger audience doesn’t always yield better results.

Partnering with an IT publication with 20,000 members might seem like a great opportunity, but what if only mechanical engineers at companies in the UK represent your best-fit prospects and this profile makes up just 5% of the publication’s membership?

The fee for such an advertising partnership will likely be representative of the entire audience size of 20,000 members yet less than 1,000 of these members are relevant. As a result, you can spend a significant portion of your marketing budget on exposure to prospects who are not involved with have an influence on purchases relating to your product or service.

  • Spread media budgets across multiple channels

By focusing on tactics and platforms that offer precise audience targeting, you will reduce wasted spend on poor-fit prospects and so have the budget available to spread your demand generation activities across various channels, tactics and platforms. The result? You can achieve maximised visibility in front of best-fit prospects and increased return on investment.

  • Choose measurable activities

The ability to track, analyse and quantify results from demand generation activities, including those on affiliate and third-party channels will be important for honing your marketing strategy. By choosing measurable, trackable activities, this helps you to identify the most engaging messaging and channels for your audience so you can switch off poorly performing channels and apply messaging insights to future content assets and advertising. Best of all, you will get a clear view of ROI data on leads, sales and lifetime customer value, and get the insights you need to discover  which demand generation activities have the greatest impact on driving the most sales-ready and in-market leads into the pipeline.

3. Create content that truly resonates with potential buyers

How can you engage your target profile with content? You have a clear view of the exact type of company and individuals you need to engage, and a plan in place of the tactics you can use to get in front of them. Now let’s create content of value to reel them in.

Content is king, but context is queen. To engage potential buyers, creating content that resonates with them, working backwards from the customer’s perspective, is what we have found to be the most effective approach.

Typical approach: Creating content which focuses on your own company products and services, rather than on the customer’s need, interests and pain points is something we're all guilty of. When we focus on getting a piece together quickly for the purposing of engaging prospects into the sales funnel, we often forget to create content that provides real value for the reader.

Your marketing messaging may pack a punch but if someone submits their details to download a content piece that promises to help them resolve a problem or learn more about a topic and get a sales pitch in return instead, you will have likely lose their interest, and potentially their respect too.

Best-practice approach: Give away more than you’re comfortable with. When all your competitors are holding back, you can be the courageous one who gives. Be prepared to share your deep knowledge, expertise and insight. Ditch that fear of giving away ‘the secret sauce’.

  • Create content that empowers

What can you tell potential buyers that will empower them to do their job better or better understand a specific issue, trend or regulation of relevance? As an expert in a niche or with experience in key markets, there is lots of information and insight you can offer that will genuinely help to address buyers’ needs, pains and challenges.

  • Map content to the buying cycle

As there are multiple decision makers and influencers are involved in buying tech solutions and services, it’s best practice to cover topics that provide value to all involved, both emotional and rational thinkers, across each stage of the buying cycle.

  • Use different content formats

We’re not all fans of the same flavour; different personas engage with different content formats. By repurposing existing content into videos, blog posts, podcast, infographics, cheat sheets, needs assessments and webinars, you can maximise results from demand generation and prospect nurturing activities. We’ve found engagement rates to be much higher when content types are diversified, achieving greater success moving prospects along the funnel and converting into actual sales leads and opportunities.

Establish the right foundations will help you to get the most from investment in B2B demand generation activities. By nailing a precise profile, selecting the right tactics and creating the most compelling content to engage this target audience, you’ll set yourself up for greater success in funnelling significant opportunities to the sales team.

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