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In a recent article for Ad Age, Ruth Stephens offered her "top seven" list of b-to-b marketing channels. Topping the list was website lead generation. Stephens reviews the basic ways in which businesses typically use their websites for inbound lead gen, from offering a white paper or other download in exchange for contact information, to using IP address identification software to discover which company a visitor is from and then placing a sales call to that company.
How to ramp it up
These methods will undoubtedly give you some leads, but progressive profiling will take you several steps further by tracking the activity of visitors to your site to gain insights about their specific interests. Use this knowledge to inform your telemarketing and email nurturing campaigns.
Crank up your referral volume
Next on Stephens' list are customer referrals. Asking for a referral, as she mentions, is a good habit to get into, but she also admits that rarely will referrals sustain a business by themselves, let alone help it to grow. In fact, if you follow the choice of one business owner I know, by eschewing advertising and solely rely on referrals, then you might as well retire.
Social proof is important when marketing to businesses. Encourage your customers to not only give you referrals, but also to like your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn. Your satisfied clients might also be willing to provide you with positive feedback that you can place on your website.
In search of content
Third on the list is search engine marketing, another staple of online marketing. This segment also touches on content marketing, which actually continues to be a high priority, especially for b-to-b marketers that need to educate potential buyers about why their business needs the product or service in question. Since buyers review an average of nine pieces of content during the research process, this proven marketing tool deserves its own spot on any list of marketing media.
Tradition and transition
Next up are three traditional marketing methods that have proven their value despite the online marketing revolution: telemarketing, direct mail and trade shows. Telemarketing garners the highest response rates of the three, although telemarketing campaigns cost more to implement than direct mail. Even these strategies can and should be integrated with your website, email and social media strategies to boost engagement.
Paying for leads gets a nod, along with a caveat: Be diligent about purchasing quality leads. The axiom "You get what you pay for" certainly applies here. That is the advantage of a pay-for-performance model; your results are easily quantified and you can plan your marketing budget by them.
What, no email?
The article mentions email at the end, not as part of the list, but only to state that "spam killed it as a cold prospecting medium," although acknowledging it as "the perfect vehicle for lead qualification and nurturing, as well as for staying in touch with current customers."
Does email lead generation really deserve to be snubbed because of spam? Examining the numbers, the mean unique open rate for U.S. email marketers last year was 20.2% and the median rate 17.1%, according to Silverpop's 2014 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study. This number covered results from a wide range of email marketers, those who apply minimal effort to their campaigns along with best-in-class marketers who employ current best practices and perform continual testing. The latter make up the the top quartile, which achieved a median open rate of 38.5%.
Email marketing has a 4,300% ROI according to the DMA, spam notwithstanding. Marketers can and should take measures to ensure that their emails don't get caught by filters. But email remains among the top channels for lead generation, especially when used as part of an integrated marketing platform that incorporates telemarketing, content marketing, social media and pay-for-performance syndication.
Integration is key
When segmented and sent out into the world to bring back a profit on their own, none of these methods would draw the powerful response that can be had when two, three or all of these channels are integrated and used in a complementary fashion.