When B2B marketers talk about a lead, they usually mean an anonymous visitor that has identified themselves on a Web form. One of the biggest challenges for B2B companies has been that visitors stay anonymous for much longer—from two-thirds to 90% of the buying process, according to Forrester.
They’re doing their own research, avoiding any interaction with your company — especially your skilled sales people — until much later in the process.
The emphasis thus far is on driving lead conversion, because if visitors remain anonymous, it’s impossible to nurture the lead. Or is it? The reality is, there is plenty of information you can collect about a visitor before they ever fill out a form, and if you leverage it properly, it’s as good – if not better – than form data for guiding nurture and engagement tactics.
What sort of information should you start looking for?
1. Where do your visitors work?
2. What content are they consuming?
3. What’s their company like?
4. How many visitors from each company?
5. How often are they scoping you out?
Once you’ve got that information, you can even start treating these visitors as “leads” much earlier, empowering both sales and marketing to take the necessary actions to accelerate the sales process. That portion of the buying cycle that was previously unknown now has some detail filled in. So what happens next?
For starters, being able to identify your visitors’ company is a big one. True, you don’t know their name or their title, but if they work at the corner store, it doesn’t really matter who they are; they’re never going to be your customer. But if they’re in your sweet spot – actually a potential customer — you want to keep your eye on them. By which we mean: digging deeper into the data.
Look a bit more closely at those companies. Can you segment them by size, industry or location? This information can impact decisions about Web site content that will speed up the sales process, but can also be used directly by sales.
Integrating this data with your CRM helps your sales team know where to focus their efforts and should influence your strategy when doing media campaigns, demand general or email marketing. You know who’s interested: you just have to give them an extra nudge.
Also, know what they’re interested in, because you’ve taken a close look at what content they’ve consumed. This information not only gives you great feedback for display ads and other outbound campaigns, it should also be integrated into your CRM so that when sales finally does get that meeting, they’re prepared to engage on the topics that matter most to your prospects
And when should you be really ready to pounce? That’s when you want to look at how many people from a particular company are visiting and how often. If more than a few people and they’re returning to your site frequently, this account should get the full court press – from targeted display ads to personal follow-up from sales.
Ultimately, you need to nurture companies that give buying signals in the same way reps nurture a lead. Through a holistic analysis of marketing programs and buying signals, marketing and sales can align to track and respond to buyer behavior long before a conversion. This approach will not only mean more quality, “traditional” leads coming to sales, it will also mean a smoother, faster sales cycle overall.