From the outside, marketing may seem like an easy job. You put out a couple of ads about your brand, and hopefully, your products (or services) will speak for themselves in helping you attract customers. But especially in a variety of industries throughout the B2B realm, the reality is not nearly as neat.
Here, relationships matter. Especially when you want to attract long-term clients that will ultimately make up a large share of your revenue, you need to make sure that you don’t just serve ads, but actually, provide tangible value before your audience puts pen to paper on the first of hopefully many contracts.
Understanding The Art of Prospecting
Talk to any experienced marketer in the B2B realm, and chances are they can talk for hours about what it takes to convince a client or buying agent to come on board with your company. That’s because finding and developing relationships with these prospects is truly more art than it is science.
For years, experts have advised on a number of opportunities specifically designed to enhance prospecting and help it be successful. Typically, these opportunities have included:
- Client referrals. Your best advertising message will not come from you, but from existing clients who are happy with their relationship and willing to share it with others in their field.
- Product education. The more you can let your prospects know about not just your product or service but its place within their business operations, the more likely they will be to see its value.
- Strategic relationship building. Ultimately, every party involves knows that this will be a business relationship. But that doesn’t mean you cannot be strategic about it, making an effort to know your prospects (and your pain points) before the sales pitch.
- Achievement of Mutual Benefits. Business prospects will not be satisfied by an emotional appeal to the same degree as consumers. Instead, they need to be convinced rationally that your product or service will serve them well.
In other words, successful client prospecting requires nuance, strategy, and comprehensive thinking that goes beyond short-term sales goals.
The Conflict of Digital Opportunities
Contrast the above best practices of typical client processing with many of the digital marketing opportunities existing today. Put simply, a Facebook or Google ad will do little to convince a buyer from a potentially major account to choose your business over your competition.
In a way, then, many of the best practices typically associated with a strategic and successful client prospecting effort directly contradict the opportunities typically touted by marketing firms and networks alike. Especially for companies who rely on a few large account rather than many small customers, that contradiction can lead to the thinking that staying away from digital marketing is actually the best possible choice for success.
However, that line of thinking is a fallacy. It’s true that a sponsored Instagram post probably will not get you that next account. But to discount digital marketing as a whole is to lose sight of the significant potential that other digital efforts can have on increasing your organization’s effectiveness, efficiency, and bottom line.
How to Use Digital Marketing to Enhance Your Prospecting
It’s no secret: if you want to succeed in building your account base, you need to be strategic and thorough. As a result, the key to success in taking advantage of digital opportunities is to find those that actually help, rather than hinder your goals.
While a variety of these opportunities exist, three stand out above all: LinkedIn, CRM solutions, and email-based lead nurturing strategies. Below, we will discuss each of the three in more detail.
The Prospecting Capabilities of LinkedIn
Over the past few years, LinkedIn has emerged from a relatively obscure social network to the premier gathering place for business professionals online. Now owned by Microsoft, it is home to more than 500 million users around the world who post and respond to job inquiries, industry news, and much more.
LinkedIn’s average user demographics make it an ideal fit for business looking to enhance their prospecting capability. In fact, the average user profile lines up ideally with average demographics of many business buyers. But in reality, this demographic overlap is not the only thing that makes this platform so beneficial for prospecting.
In addition, the network also offers a variety of tools specifically designed for helping businesses reach out to and connect with buyers. Social Media Examiner has identified some of these opportunities, which include:
- Identifying warm prospects by reaching out to your followers, as well as users who recently viewed one of your posts and profile.
- Building relationships, both through personal messages and introductions from mutual connections that are clearly displayed by the network.
- Developing thought leadership through regular company updates as well as the platform’s internal, long-form blogging tool.
All of the above possibilities are free. In addition, marketers in the B2B space can also take advantage of paid prospecting tools, used by companies that range from PayPal to SAP.
The Relationship Building of a CRM
Of course, finding the right prospects through a platform like LinkedIn is only the beginning. Especially large accounts require extensive relationship building, which CRM software solutions can provide.
CRM is short for customer relationship management software, an increasingly necessary tool in the belt of any company looking to use digital marketing opportunities to some degree. It is, in essence, a prospect database that helps you track not just your potential clients’ contact information, but also every interaction you have had with them.
Especially if more than one person handles a single account, this type of tracking mechanism becomes indispensable. You can ensure that your message remains consistent, increasing your chances of closing the deal.
Finally, some CRM solutions even allow you to track your potential clients’ interactions with your website and social media account, providing relevant information about pain points that you can use to make a convincing argument for a partnership.
The Potential Power of Lead Nurturing
Many CRMs today also allow companies to engage in lead nurturing, the process of sending a number of automated messages (generally emails) that nudge new prospects closer towards becoming customers. Executed the right way, lead nurturing plays a significant role in helping you move prospects into accounts that contribute to your revenue.
Of course, that ‘right execution’ requires more than just setting up some automated emails. The timing has to be just right, as does the message in each email. You need to walk the line between convincing, without becoming annoying. These messages also need to be coordinated with individual outreach so that they don’t seem redundant in your clients’ eyes.
Finally, it makes sense to take advantage of lead scoring, the process of categorizing your leads in order to build a more efficient nurturing process. Each interaction with your prospects adds to a point value. Once a certain threshold is reached, you know the lead is ready for the sales call. Over time, you can improve your scoring system to maximize accuracy in finding the right leads for conversion.
The Power of Digital Marketing in Perfecting Your Prospecting Efforts
Prospecting potential clients is and remains a complex process. At the same time, digital marketing opportunities – when used strategically – can play a major part in helping you be successful. The key is finding the right opportunities, and building a framework that matches both your individual situation and your clients’ needs.
Over time, you can use these opportunities to perfect your prospecting efforts. At that point, the time you put into the digital conversion will be well worth it, considering the additional revenue and increased prospect conversion rates that initiatives like LinkedIn and lead nurturing can provide for your brand.