There’s no doubt that the task of generating B2B online sales leads has jumped up the agenda in recent times. However, one of main challenges businesses often come up against is friction between in-house PR, marketing and sales teams.
For example, these teams often have differing perspectives on what constitutes a lead in the first place – which is why leads tend to be separated into MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) or SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads).
An MQL is a lead deemed strong enough by the PR and marketing teams – i.e. someone who has downloaded a piece of content, taken up an offer or interacted with marketing content. In comparison, an SQL is a lead the sales team has qualified as a potential customer. An SQL goes into the sales funnel for the sales team to progress.
But this is just one area where opinions can differ. So, how can businesses create an online b2b lead generation process that works for PR, marketing and B2B sales teams?
Don’t work in silos
The first point to think about is the importance of working as ‘one team’, which is becoming especially important as more teams work remotely.
The challenge is that tension can sometimes build between the PR, marketing and sales teams – often when a team feels that its contribution isn’t valued or that another team isn’t fulfilling its end of the bargain. I’ve even seen businesses where sales and marketing are actively working against each other.
B2B sales leads happen when the structures are as integrated as possible. Marketing/PR teams need to feel that the MQLs they pass on are being acted upon, while the sales team need to feel that marketing is helping to build the right sales pipeline.
For that reason, it’s not unusual for SMBs and enterprises to merge sales, PR and marketing functions under the stewardship of the chief revenue officer (CRO) or chief growth officer (CGO). It’s now common for teams like marketing/PR, sales, channel sales and customer success to report into a CRO, with the role increasingly replacing chief marketing officers (CMOs) to build more connected and revenue-focused sales and marketing teams.
If a business can’t restructure, taking simple steps like agreeing upfront what makes an SQL and working together to set metric, lead and revenue targets can make a big difference. It’s a great way to integrate teams so both sides see value from their efforts.
And let’s face it, right now is a good time for everyone to re–evaluate how they work with colleagues, as team structures and old ways of operating are likely to change for many B2B companies. Getting sales and marketing teams together for regular (video) calls to make sure everyone’s pulling in the same direction has never been more important.
Consider the content and the journey
Once sales and marketing are more aligned, it’s vital that they put their new-found symbiosis towards creating high-quality content. This requires input from both sides.
The process should start by defining the target audience. Whether a business is selling a B2B product or service, it all starts with the audience it’s trying to reach. Understanding the personas of different audiences is key, helping businesses hone down to who their customers are and what makes them tick.
Typically, a persona includes information around:
- Demographics – e.g. age, education level and family details
- Company sector
- Job title
- The challenges/ pain points they face
Sales and marketing teams should collaborate to decide exactly which companies to target. Deciding on the top 100/200 target list together means PR and marketing teams are more likely to deliver the leads that sales really values.
The next step is to think about the sales cycle. Driving sales leads is all about getting the right content, to the right audience, at the right time. It’s crucial that PR, marketing and sales use the individual skills, knowledge and talents that each team brings to the table as B2B leads move through the purchase cycle.
The aim is to nurture prospects along the buyer journey, using different types of content at different stages. As a general rule, content can become more product-focused as targets move down the sales cycle, starting with educational/thought leadership content to build trust and moving towards content geared around trapping data from prospects (such as an eBook or webinar).
In most cases, the PR and marketing teams will be great with the educational content, with sales providing more input and insight as the content becomes more product focused. For a lead to turn from an MQL to an SQL, sales will often like to see multiple buying signals. For example, if a prospect has downloaded some content and attended an online event, it might be a good time for sales to get involved.
Another key aspect is the channels through which content is delivered to audiences. Marketing, PR and sales teams have to team up to understand the most valuable channels for the business. Sales teams will have a good sense of where prospects go to get information, while PR and marketing teams will have a deeper understanding of the key press, forums, blogs and social media platforms.
Finding the right formula for bringing in B2B leads takes time and experimentation from all teams. If it were easy, I’d be sitting on a sack of money! Even when a business finds the formula that works for its teams, it won’t stay the same forever. And if it did, it would be boring – and where’s the fun in that!
The key is for sales, PR and marketing teams to remember that, although they will drive the process at different stages of the buyer journey and through different channels, they ultimately have to rely on each other to get a sale over the line.
- Red Lorry Yellow Lorry is a B2B tech PR and marketing agency with offices in London, Berlin, Boston and Los Angeles.