Senior Content Writer
Everybody wants leads.
Okay, everyone wants customers. But in the B2B world, you accept that customers don’t spring up out of the ground, cash in hand, begging for your service. You know you have to start with leads and work with them before they become customers.
Your customer, cash-in-hand, walking away
If you know all that, then it makes sense that generating your leads in the first place isn’t going to be any easier. People don’t become your leads just to do you a favour, and you can’t expect they’ll show up just because you’re there any more than you can expect they show up ready to buy.
Begin at the End and Work Back to the Start
Start by thinking about what happens before you buy anything. Let’s go with something easy that everyone’s done: eating an a restaurant you’ve never been to before.
You’re sitting down, enjoying (or not enjoying) your meal. Before that, you had to decide where to go. You may have been weighing several options, but the reviews for this place looked most promising.
But before that, you might have been considering whether you should go out at all or just do the default option: cooking at home. Ultimately, you (and maybe more importantly, another stakeholder: your partner), decided cooking was too much effort and you just wanted something new.
And before that, you became aware of a problem: you got hungry.
Where That Whole Analogy Falls Apart for B2B Lead Generation
If this is what you’re thinking of when you’re building your B2B sales and marketing program, you’re making a big mistake. People have to eat in the first place. And they essentially have to buy clothes and have to buy basic furniture. These are things they know they need, and they know where to get them. A restaurant’s going to have to do work to explain why they’re the best choice, but they don’t have to explain to people that food is the necessary solution to hunger in the first place. By and large, the messaging here is focused on a particular mindset: people know what's wrong, and they generally know about and are receptive to the solution.
"How much dough can I spend?!"
On the other hand, there are tons of examples across the B2B and B2C world where people don’t literally need the solution. Yes, a smartphone can enable you to do a whole lot in your personal life, but somehow we all got by in 2006, didn’t we? And a suite of new PCs with software handled by experts would be pretty cool — but to many companies, they tell themselves they can get by on the computers they happen to have already with the one license to Microsoft Office they got seven years go.
That’s the key here: your leads don’t perceive that they need you. Not in the same way they need to eat or buy clothing. In lead generation, you’re fighting against their assumption that they don’t need anyone’s help, all through to the stage where they realize they do need someone’s help, to the point where they realize they need your help.
Here, typically, people are not even aware of the real nature of their problem. They aren't starting their research using the right terminology, and they're often not looking for an immediate product pitch. They're just trying to understand.
When you're targeting this mindset, don’t blend into the noise of sales pitches. Try something different.
Be humble. Be honest. Be helpful.
Go Back to The Start Again
With this perspective, go back to the start of a lead’s journey. Ask yourself why they’d want to spend money they’re not currently spending? What’s actually going to compel them to do that? What is their status quo, and what’s frustrating them every day? Ask to have a frank discussion with a trusted current customer about what they were experiencing before you came in (also, build a case study out of that!).
But keep in mind that leads aren’t going to just “generate”. You can’t just do something that doesn’t work, pay to scale it up to massive numbers, and expect it to work. Zero multiplied by 10,000 is still zero.
Leads don’t take action according to some baseline random rate. They're all individuals, and they take any action based on perceived value.
No value: no action.
The message on the click that brings them to your site needs to compellingly suggest value. The page needs to deliver value. And the mechanism by which you earn their contact information must credibly offer even more value. Nobody’s going to assume the value's there. Nobody’s going to give you the benefit of the doubt. They’re busy, and they don’t want to waste their time on what they don’t trust to be useful.
So, What’s Valuable to Your Lead?
Yes, there’s value in your service. That’s the point of it. But again, we’re not starting with the service, we’re starting in the buyer’s journey. There’s still value for you to give here, and buyers in different stages of that journey are going to value different things. It’s your job to anticipate and provide that value at every stage.
Value for the Awareness Stage
In this stage, your potential leads have become aware of a problem they’re facing. If you’re selling Managed IT Services for instance, it could be that they’re facing the strain of IT systems that worked well in an earlier stage of their company but that aren’t scaling up. They might be trying to figure out how to administer multiple Microsoft Office user accounts, or what the most cost-effective way to get new machines is.
Here? Just give the answer away. And don’t be afraid that giving the answer away will lose the business. Your customer isn’t going to go off and fix a big complicated problem on their own after reading one article. They don’t have the expertise to do that — in fact, your content could explain a quick, easy fix for their immediate problem while explaining that a larger, more robust solution exists. Or your content could explain how the problem is actually more complicated than they might thing. In any case, you're helping them understand the problem and empathizing with them.
Value in the Consideration Stage
Once the reader knows what the solution is, they’re going to start researching that solution specifically. They may be wondering what a business should expect from an MSP. They might be looking to understand how their specific industry needs make a difference. They’ll start thinking about the price of not adopting the solution and the benefits of doing so. Chances are, they’re not the only decision-maker at their company either, so once they’re sold on the solution, they’ll also want to convince others of the value too.
At this stage, you’ll want to create content that answers these questions. You may want to turn to some longer-form stuff, like brochures or webinars or comprehensive pillar pages, that lay out all the answers. Basically, demonstrate your value by demonstrating your expertise.
Once you’ve done that, it might be time to ask to get in contact. Provide a “to-go” version of your content they can get emailed to themselves or ask for their contact information in exchange for some additional, even higher value content. Be creative and think about what you can offer — the late consideration stage is also a good place to start to get sales involved.
Value in the Decision Stage
When someone’s convinced they need a service they’re finally receptive to hearing about why you’re the one for them. Again, you’ll want to demonstrate your expertise at every step in the decision stage, but you’ll also want to start tying the benefits they’ve been reading about directly to your offer.
What actually makes you different? How can you work to solve their specific problems? You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time, but you can build some basic templates that look nice that you can customize as needed.
Provide Value at Every Stage
Every time you want a visitor or a lead to do something, ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?” Because if there’s only something in it for you, they’re not going to do it. It’s really as simple as that.
There ya go.
You have to earn every single action. You can’t just rely on your service being self-evidently desirable.
It’s easy to say all this. But what do you do? Here’s a few ideas you can take away and think about.
- Are people not downloading your awesome long-form content? Well, maybe they’re just not far enough along in their journey. Try giving it out for free but use it to call out other, higher value content, or even events.
- Many B2B companies sell products and services that are a significant cash commitment. Can you offer a limited, free version of your service?
- Sometimes, people see “free” and assume “no value” — so can you create a stripped-down, basic, extremely low-cost version just to give them a taste?
- Maybe someone would like to get to know you more, but they don’t want the commitment and immediacy of a phone call. Try making yourself available in more casual ways — like a webinar they can drop into live or watch later.
There’s tons you can do to demonstrate value. Take a good look at your company and the people in it, get yourself a blank whiteboard, and just start writing everything down. You might be surprised with what you come up with!
Okay, yes, this article wouldn’t be complete without a pitch, would it? We like to think we’re pretty good at all the stuff we talk about in our blog. In fact, we’ve helped out more than 80 B2B organizations across Canada and the US grow their revenue using a methodology just like this.
You can always contact us directly any time, of course. Or, click below to learn a little more first!