Best Practice Toolkits
The discipline of lead generation for sales is in the process of undergoing fundamental change. Historically, B2B marketing departments would focus much of their resources on awareness and branding activities, while a telephone-based group would work from calling lists to attempt to connect with buyers and discover those ready for a conversation with sales. As buyers now have access to all the information they require in a buying process, this process has changed significantly.
Today’s marketing departments realize that their role has shifted to one of facilitating a buying process with the use of marketing automation rather than attempting to push a sales process. With that, the way in which leads are cultivated, nurtured, and flagged as being ready for sales has shifted fundamentally.
The lead generation process begins much earlier in the buying process than it did historically. Through social media and sharing, educational webinars, and search, marketers seek to be found wherever their prospective buyers may find relevant information that relates to business challenges that the marketer’s solutions can solve. As the prospective buyer engages with the marketer’s organization, the education process progresses into one of lead nurturing. Over time, by providing valuable content, the marketer will be able to remain top of mind with the prospective buyer, and slowly educate him or her on the key considerations in a purchase decisions.
At a certain point, the buyer’s online behavior – their Digital Body Language – indicates that they are ready to engage with sales in a later stage discussion around purchasing. This is identified through lead scoring which matches the individual’s behavior to known activities that indicate buying intent. The conversation that this leads to, with sales, involves contracts, pricing, and service levels, and it is one that rests on a foundation of buyer education that has been built in the earlier stages of the lead generation process.
Whereas the concept of lead generation has shifted from its historical centering around the use of the phone to identify qualified leads, the phone is not an obsolete concept in lead generation. As part of both the engagement and qualification of prospective buyers, inside, or outsourced teams may be used to call prospects showing some level of interest, and communicate with them. This can be used both to highlight a value proposition or an event, as part of the lead nurturing and engagement process, or it can be used to ask questions and determine interest as part of the lead qualification process.
Lead generation has changed dramatically from its historical roots. Today, lead generation software focuses on managing the entire lead lifecycle, from initial engagement, through lead nurturing, to lead scoring and sales hand-off. Phone-based teams may remain part of the process in many instances, but they are far from the only aspect of the process in today’s environment.
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The free vs. pay-wall debate taking place among the mainstream press mirrors a similar discussion among those adopting a content marketing strategy.
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