“Content is King”: no doubt that nowadays, B2B marketers heavily rely on the inbound marketing paradigm when they build lead generation programs. As a matter of fact, 71% of B2B marketers are using content marketing to generate leads. However, stats show that outbound marketing brings up to 40% of new B2B leads each year.
Inbound marketing takes time, both for preparing tools and contents, and for getting actual results in terms of sales. Most B2B companies are willing to invest in inbound initiatives, but still need to get results quickly and fill their pipeline efficiently to close deals in the meantime. Traditional outbound is not dead, and can actually help companies gather enough marketing insights to better define their inbound strategies.
How do you get prepared for launching outreach campaigns? As for many marketing initiatives, you cannot afford navigating oceans blind. Rigorous processes need to be implemented before you even start your campaigns. Below are the 5 steps to prepare for success:
What is your strategy?
- Generating leads and / or testing the market?
Outreach campaigns’ main purpose is obviously to acquire new customers, whether the goal is to increase market shares, launch new products, or make up for lost business. Will your target audience be the same for each of these goals? Do you know exactly who your target audience is? Shall you for instance launch a new product, outreach campaigns will most likely reveal market trends or niches you have not thought about. Shall you want to capture the exact same profile as your current customer base, you may realize down the road that growth pockets exist besides your comfort zone, and that you actually have the capabilities to serve these uncovered markets.
Outreach campaigns will bring new customers in, but also provide you with critical market insights. You should then build your campaigns with 2 approaches in mind, lead generation and market test, and assign efforts to each based on your expectations.
And don’t forget to align inbound and outbound strategies. Your company’s positioning and objectives should be consistent across marketing initiatives.
- Defining your customer persona:
Outreach campaigns’ success will be conditioned by the quality of your target database. To define your targets’ profiles, you need to work on 2 dimensions as you build your criteria: company and people. You may select the ideal company profile, but if you fail to identify key decision-makers or influencers, it is likely that your voice will remain unheard. Here are 4 criteria that will set you off to a good start:
- Industry: the pitfall here is to opt for a too broad definition of the segments you want to target. You may end up going after unqualified targets, or using the same generic message for sub-segments which have nothing in common. For instance, if you partner with a database provider and ask for targets in the “electronics” segment, you may end up with 1,000 contacts at companies specialized in electronics for consumer products while you are aiming at targeting companies manufacturing electronic devices for the healthcare industry. Make sure you dig into industries’ sub-segments to best define the ones which will drive business: will they generate high-value deals? Do they grow fast? Will they protect your margins? Will they generate a significant volume of transactions?
- Size: the size of the companies will impact the ease of access to key decision makers. Smaller companies will be easier to grasp, with a direct access to CEOs or top executives directly involved in the trenches. For larger companies, extra work will be required as you may need to map the various branches and locations with their respective business units.
- Location: depending on your business, there might be pools of targets in certain geographical areas which will help you leverage word-of-mouth and speed up brand awareness and recognition. Logistics can be an important factor too: can you easily ship your products there? Can you travel and meet your prospects easily?
- Job titles: this dimension is often neglected, but is one of the most important. Who will be receptive to your message and be able to influence or make the decision to test your products or services? If you offer customized products for custom projects, you may want to test your message with the people leading such projects (eg. engineers) or the people selling such projects (eg. key account managers). If you offer ground-breaking, innovative solutions, CEOs setting strategic directions for developing new business units or capturing new markets might be the best people to reach out to.
Building your target database:
There are 2 ways you can reach out to target companies: using volume, or using an individual approach.
The easiest way to go is to resort to a database provider, who will provide you with a list of targets based on your criteria, with the appropriate contact information. Some precautions are needed here:
- Renting versus purchasing: if you rent a database, it will certainly be cheaper but you won’t own the contacts and it will hamper your ability at following up with your targets. Purchasing lists is often a better investment.
- Contact information: do you want phone numbers only or email addresses as well? Pricing to get email addresses vary a lot from one provider to another: check quotes accordingly.
- Segmentation: each database provider has its own way of segmenting lists, using custom industry labels, NAICS codes, or SIC codes. Make sure you ask about the method for segmenting ahead of time. Same applies for job titles. Some providers use broad categories, without respect to key information like seniority: you may prefer to target “senior engineers” rather than just “engineering”, for the latter category might put you in touch with junior engineers who have no influence at the company.
To ensure optimal targeting, you may choose to build your lists manually. Several sources can be useful for finding companies and screening their profile thoroughly:
- Online directories: sometimes, database providers are not an option. Imagine for instance that you want to target companies developing automated guided vehicles for industrial applications: this is typically a segment which is not covered by database providers’ segmenting methods. There are a lot of free online directories which provide highly specialized databases that you can leverage.
- LinkedIn: with paying accounts, you will have a full access to LinkedIn members’ profiles, as well as options for conducting effective research on companies’ employees (keywords, location, function, seniority, etc.). Specific accounts like Sales Navigator can help you build a pipeline within LinkedIn, using a flexible system of tags and ratings.
- Associations: take some time to find associations relevant to your industry. They often have online directories with key contact information.
What is the channel that you will use for your outreach campaign? Email campaigns and calling campaigns will not require the same amount of resources and you will need to test your capabilities.
- Planning: Shall you opt for a calling campaign, using a 3rd party company might be the best option for generating leads which will then be redirected to your sales team. Shall you opt for email campaigns, don’t forget to plan for time and resources. Indeed, if it is rather straight forward to send your initial email, whether using mass email tools or sending each email individually, the follow-up process requires thorough preparation. You need to carefully schedule initial contact emails and then follow-up emails or calls, while keeping track of negative answers, automated answers (vacation), positive answers, absence of answers, and suggestions for other contacts at the same company. Marketing automation platforms can help streamline the process: you will need to define a budget for using such platforms, and to have a person in charge of managing both campaigns and the lead management process.
- Testing: We recommend that you run some tests for each segment in order to assess how your company will absorb the activity resulting from outreach campaigns. Key indicators will be the time spent at implementing campaigns, the response rate for each segment, the time needed to handle requests for information and quotes, and the effectiveness of the process for turning leads into sales opportunities.
Preparing assets & processes:
How do you generate and sustain interest until leads are ready to be handed over to the sales team? Outreach campaigns do not only consist in pushing your message to your audience. You need to engage the audience with appropriate contents.
- Generating interest: can you speak your audience’s language? Take time to conduct some online research or to interview 2 or 3 relevant companies to figure out what their needs are, what words they select to explain their challenges, and how they assess their suppliers. Whether you use emails or calls, you will need a set of contents from the very first interactions. Emails will require specific copy, subject lines, landing pages (on your website) and, if applicable, professional email templates for each target segment. Phone calls will require a script and a set of Q&A. For each tactic, you will also need to define who will be in charge of answering specific inquiries (technical requirements, sales processes, etc.).
- Sustaining interest: contents will be key to engage your audience and you need to leverage your strengths to showcase your expertise for the segments you target. Make sure you prepare custom case studies or white papers for each segment, testimonial videos from your past customers, updated spec sheets and pricing lists, etc. These contents should be hosted on the company’s website, and communications need to be prepared so as to redirect targets to specific landing pages on your website. Targets will indeed look for every piece of contents to check whether your value proposition and capabilities match their specific needs.
- Managing touchpoints: before engaging into outreach campaigns, you need to clearly define how you will deliver information to targets and the various steps to move them through the sales funnel. For every communication, you will need to provide information on 1/ how your product or service match your targets’ needs, 2/ how you will deliver your solution (budget, timeline, processes), and 3/ what the next steps are. Build your structure ahead of time.
As discussed above, outreach campaigns can help you achieve 2 objectives: getting market insights and generating sales opportunities. Measuring campaigns’ success will therefore consist in 1/ assessing if the information collected on the market can be leveraged to generate business, and 2/ assessing the ROI of campaigns for each segment of interest.
- CRM analytics: make sure that your CRM will contain all the information needed, with consistent labels, to measure the success of your campaigns. Key information will be: the exact source of leads (database, LinkedIn, directory, etc.), the exact segment (with as much granularity as possible), and the situation in the sales funnel (contacted, relationship initiated, request for proposal, negotiation, offer sent, won). It will help you better analyze your results, refine your efforts in the future, detect key opportunities for growth, and compare results with other channels.
- Campaigns’ ROI: for each campaign and segment, keep track of the cost per lead acquisition as well as the lifetime value of customers acquired. It will help you define if you should aim at improving, substituting (other channel), or killing campaigns for each segment.
- Engagement: sometimes, campaigns do not immediately generate sales results. Make sure you do not draw conclusions too fast: what is happening on your website? Do you generate visits while you run your campaigns? Is there engagement with your contents? Google Analytics can help you track visitors’ behavior on your website: custom URLs for links inserted in email campaigns will provide analytics for specific segments regarding the number of visits, time spent on the website, interest for specific pages, or downloads of contents (case studies, white papers, spec sheets, etc.). If a specific segment is particularly active on your website but does not contact you right away, it’s a good opportunity to prepare next steps: custom inbound tactics for this segment, active outbound follow-up, investment in industry-specific advertising or trade shows, etc. Market intelligence acquired with outbound campaigns is a tremendous asset for success in the long run.