The biggest benefit of increasing your leads is that it increases your sales. More leads = more sales opportunities. This guide has all the ground-up basics to lead generation you need to know.
You likely know that sales and marketing alignment is our jam. We are all about the two teams communicating openly and working towards common goals. But did you also know that we are all about working smarter? Sales and marketing automation can help you with some of the heavy lifting allowing you to scale and spend your time on the things that matter most to your business.
Despite the joint naming, sales automation and marketing automation serve distinct purposes within an organization. In this post, we’ll define both sales and marketing automation and share some of our top tips for implementation.
What is Sales Automation?
HubSpot defines sales automation as the mechanization of manual, time-consuming sales tasks using software, artificial intelligence (AI), and other digital tools.
With the sales team focused on one to one communication, automation can help with prospecting and outreach and cut down on response time, making sales uber efficient. More specifically, sales automation helps with:
- Lead distribution
- Lead follow-up emails
- Meeting scheduling
- Sales quotes/proposals
- Customer onboarding
- Lead scoring
- Lead qualification
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is using software to automate marketing activities such as email marketing, social posting, and reporting.
With the marketing team focused on communicating to a group of people, (ideally targeted to personas), automation adds scalability and also personalization. Without marketing automation, it’s nearly impossible to include personalization at the scale needed for most B2B businesses.
Marketing automation helps to accomplish the following:
- Updated tracking
- Real-time alerts
- Automated lead-hand off
- Landing pages
- Social post scheduling
- Lead nurturing
- Lead qualification
Sales & Marketing Automation Tips for B2B
If you’re either considering sales and marketing automation for your business or your current efforts aren’t going so well, this next section is for you. Here are our top five sales and marketing automation tips.
Tip #1: It starts with alignment
If it feels like your sales and marketing teams are on different planets, adding automation to the mix won’t solve that. It’s best to have a meeting of the minds first. There you should outline responsibilities, define key terms and align your goals.
Alignment can be a process, but at a minimum, it should be an active process.
Tip #2: Don’t overbuy
Underutilized technology can be a costly expenditure. Not every company needs sales and marketing automation and not every company needs all the bells and whistles of enterprise-grade solutions. Being aligned as a team will help you hone in on the features that are necessary.
Here are some questions for consideration when evaluating the needs of your teams:
- Are you struggling to segment and prioritize leads?
- Do your leads require nurturing?
- Is your sales team struggling to find the time to follow up with leads?
- Are you leveraging your content?
- Do you know where your teams are coming from?
- How are leads handed off?
Tip #3: Have a plan
Sales and marketing automation can be great, but not without a plan. Having an agreed-upon strategy of what matters to your organization will help you select the tech that meets your needs and execute day to day.
Automation isn’t the entire strategy, but it’s part of it.
Tip #4: Who owns automation?
Bringing on new technology can sometimes have people asking, “Who’s on first?” We strongly recommend appointing an automation internal champion. This person is responsible for adoption, consistency and holding teams accountable.
Tip #5: Don’t forget you’re marketing and selling to humans
When it comes to automation, you can have too much of a good thing because at the end of the day, you’re still marketing and selling to humans. No one wants to engage and converse with a robot, especially if the buyer is in the decision stage.
Make sure to:
- Monitor replies to your automated your messaging
- Use personalization
- Practice social listening
- Analyze the data and optimize
Tip #5: Automation isn’t set it and forget it
C’mon. Is there anything in sales or marketing that is set it and forget it? The answer is no. There isn’t. Sales and marketing automation tools typically come with better reporting capabilities. Use it!
Also, there’s part of the story that can’t always be seen in the data. Take the time to talk to the teams and solicit feedback.
Sales and marketing automation can save you time and help your B2B business scale. If you’re considering incorporating automation into your sales and marketing strategy, we’d love to chat.
Okay, so if they are interacting with your website, but they aren’t ready to buy, what are they doing? They are likely researching solutions to solve their problems and considering several options prior to making a purchase decision.
The way that we as marketers help leads through the buyer’s journey, is by leveraging email nurture sequences, also known as lead nurturing. Lead Nurturing by definition is the process of building effective relationships with potential customers throughout the buying journey.
One to one direct communication with all B2B leads isn’t scalable, but strategic email lead nurturing is, and it’s effective. The caveat? Email nurturing must be strategic.
Here are 8 B2B email nurturing mistakes that will tank your conversion rates and leave your leads dead in the water.
Mistake #1: Not Having a Lead Nurturing Campaign at All
Every B2B company needs lead nurturing one way or another. Not convinced? Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you have content available for download?
- Do you have a chatbot?
- Do you have a ‘Contact Us’ form on your website?
- Do you offer a demo or webinar?
- Do you a newsletter sign up?
If you answered yes to any of the above, email nurture sequences are for you. They do some of the heavy lifting by giving the potential buyer the information they need to help themselves, yet still provide them with the opportunity to easily raise their hand for sales.
And let’s face it, if you’re not nurturing them, another company likely will and they’ll be drawn elsewhere.
Mistake #2: Forgoing Strategy and Research
Nothing can turn your leads away faster than poorly targeted random marketing emails. Let strategy and research fuel your persona development and help you craft your marketing plan at large. Email lead nurturing should roll up nicely and be aligned across teams.
Mistake #3: Not using personalization
Make sure your emails sound like they were written by a human being for another human being to read.
If you’re using a marketing automation software like HubSpot, you’ve likely collected data that can be easily inserted into your emails to add a personal touch. It can be as simple as addressing the email with their first name or you can take it a step further. Do you know their role? Their job title? The more insights you can glean from your leads, the more tailored you can make your emails.
Also, here’s a fun fact.
Mistake #4: Death by sales pitch
Not all leads are ready to buy the second they begin interacting with your brand, so hang tight on transcribing your elevator pitch.
It’s important to meet personas where they are at in the buyer’s journey by providing relevant, helpful content. Videos, blogs, additional resources, case studies, and customer testimony are perfect tidbits that can be shared via email nurture campaigns.
Are sales pitches ever appropriate? Absolutely. There comes a point in the nurture sequence, which should be determined by user engagement, where you absolutely ‘ask for the sale’. Here are some ways to do that.
Mistake #5: CTA Overload
Every email should have at least one clear call-to-action (CTA), but too many CTAs can be a distraction. Not to mention, it makes for an ugly email.
Pro Tip: If you’re unclear about the purpose of your email, the lead likely will be too. Take a step back and list out the email subject, primary CTA and secondary CTAs if you have them, in a doc prior to building out your sequence.
Mistake #6: Radio Silence When Leads Engage
This one seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised how often email replies go unanswered. If a lead replies to your nurture sequence, where does it go? Who checks the inbox? Whose responsibility is it to reply? Make sure to have a game plan in place prior to launching.
What’s worse than silence? Any of these mistakes!
Mistake #7: Thinking Lead Nurturing is One and Done
The more blogs I write, the more I feel like a broken record that’s stuck on research and optimization. But it’s so true. Lead nurture emails are perfect candidates for optimization and should be based on research.
Not sure where to start the optimization process? Let the data be your guide vs intuition. Subject lines, CTAs, and email timing are all great optimization candidates if the data points are lackluster.
Mistake #8: Keeping Sales in the Dark
Lead conversion is a team effort and often a result of both the sales and marketing team working towards the same goals
When it comes to workflows and email nurture, it’s especially critical that sales and marketing align and have a system in place to signify when a lead is actively talking to sales or vice versa. Nothing can confuse or in some cases, annoy your leads more than emails from several people at the same company. Not sure if you’re aligned? Here are some tips to check.
The good news, this can be easily avoided if you’re using HubSpot by leveraging enrollment criteria, lists, and lead status.
Are you using email to send content to your leads and customers? If you’re not, turns out you’re part of the minority.
Whether you’re a seasoned marketing pro or an email novice, check out the list of our top B2B email marketing KPIs we like to track. But before we dive into the metrics, we need to touch on one major email marketing necessity, goals.
Email Marketing Goals
You should know by now that random acts of marketing (executing marketing tactics that aren’t part of an overarching strategy) are a major don’t in our book and that definitely applies to emails. You might be thinking, “It’s just an email.” And in a sense, you’re right. However, all email communication whether it be a newsletter or a simple follow up email post-download needs to be part of a greater digital marketing strategy.
Okay, so how do you go from the big picture down to your email campaigns? You break it down email by email.
HubSpot recommends doing a quick gut check before you send your next email by asking yourself these questions. What is the goal of my email marketing? Is it to grow my subscriber database? Generate more leads? To convert more existing leads into customers?
Once you have your goal(s) determined, you’re ready to figure out which metrics you need to track. Read on for our top 6 fav B2B Email Marketing KPIs.
#1. Bounce Rate
What is bounce rate? Bounce rate is the percentage of emails that could not be successfully delivered to the email recipient’s inbox.
Why we track bounce rate: Emails can bounce for several reasons and fall into two categories, “hard” and “soft”. Soft bounces are temporary problems with delivery like issues with an email client’s server. Hard bounces are permanent problems such as a nonexistent email address and will never be delivered.
Okay, so an email can’t be delivered, how does that affect you? Our friends at HubSpot say contact list cleanup is a must and we agree. All hard bounces should be removed from your list immediately because internet service providers (ISPs) use bounce rates as one of the key factors to determine an email sender’s reputation. Too many bounces = Spammer when it comes to ISPs.
#2. Open Rate
What is open rate? Open rate is the percentage of recipients that open a given email.
Why we track open rate: Recipients can’t convert if they aren’t opening your emails, so the open rate can be a great place to start for optimization. We have to disclose though, not everyone is a fan of tracking open rate because it can be an unreliable metric. An email only counts as opened if the recipient also receives all embedded images within that email. Image blocking is an option via email clients- it’s definitely a possibility your number is off.
So all of the above aside, we still like to keep open rate on our radar, especially when optimizing subject lines and using it comparatively.
What is Click-through-rate? CTR is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on one or more links in an email. We often refer to the links as the Call-to-Action (CTA) of the email.
Why we track CTR: CTR is a great indicator of how your email is performing and if your content is resonating with your personas. Are recipients actually clicking on the links that you want them to click on? According to Campaign Monitor, the average click-through rate for most campaigns is slightly over 4%. Here are some tips on how to optimize your followup email CTAs for a higher CTR.
#4. Conversion Rate
What is conversion rate? Conversion rate is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on an email CTA and completed the desired action. Think completing a form, signing up for a free trial, making a purchase, etc.
Why we track conversion rate: Conversion rate is the money maker! Both figuratively and quite literally in some instances. The first step in email marketing is getting the user to click on your link in the email and the second is getting them to convert. This is a major metric in determining if you are meeting your goals.
Lead to MQL/Customer Conversion Rate
Depending on your email campaign goals you can really drill down when it comes to conversion rate. It can also spin off into other metrics such as Lead to Marketing Qualified conversion rate and Lead to Customer conversion rates.
What is B2B Email Marketing ROI? ROI is the overall return on investment for your B2B email marketing campaign.
Why we track ROI: ROI is a KPI staple. Just like any other initiative within your company, you need to track ROI. Are you making money? Are your marketing efforts helping the bottom line? ROI analysis can point out areas of opportunity and areas that are burning cash.
While we’re talking about KPIs, are you tracking your sales and marketing team alignment? Here’s some more info.
#6. Unsubscribe Rate
What is Unsubscribe Rate? Unsubscribe rate is the rate at which email recipients are unsubscribing from receiving email communication from your company.
Why we track unsubscribe rate: Unsubscribes alone shouldn’t be the only indicator you review for email performance; however, if your unsubscribes are high, check it out! Perhaps your email is too aggressive, your customers have outgrown you, or your persona messaging is off.
Whatever the reason, high unsubscribe rates are like a big flashing light saying, “Change needed here.”
Words to the Wise
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers and become hyper-focused on the KPIs, but here are few things to keep in mind.
- Keep it in perspective. Don’t rest solely on percentages. Make sure to look at how many recipients are contributing to the data before you go optimization crazy.
- Optimize. And then Optimize again. Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you see a number you don’t like, optimize! Emails are perfect candidates for testing.
- Give it time. You want to give your email campaign time to do its thing. Rapid-fire changes aren’t helpful because it muddies the waters of what’s actually contributing to the change.
Conversion funnel by definition can mean a few different things depending on the source, but here at Lake One, when we talk about conversion funnel as it relates to an inbound marketing program, we’re talking about the call-to-action, landing page, thank you page, and follow-up email that supports our inbound efforts.
Read on to learn more about the key components of a conversion funnel along with some insider tips for implementation.
With content consumption at an all-time high among consumers, Call-to-Actions (CTAs) are uber important.
In Marketing, a call-to-action (CTA) is an instruction to your target buyer designed to provoke an immediate response. Figuratively speaking, CTAs are a hand wave or an arrow saying, “Hey! Look over here. We have something you might like!”
CTAs use action words to direct the user. For example, ‘download this white paper now’, ‘click here’ and ‘watch the video’. There are so many examples of CTAs, but a few elements stay consistent across the board.
- Headline: Write a header that makes it clear and easy to see what it is you’re offering.
- Sub Header: Explain the value to the user of what you’re offering, but keep it concise. Space is limited.
- Image: Include an image that relates to what you’re offering to catch the user’s eye and add additional context.
- Action Words: Here’s where you actually say what action you want the user to take (download here) typically called out by a button or highlighted differently in some way.
Below is an example of a Lake One’s CTAs. Go ahead. Click on it
Although the majority of B2B businesses are using landing pages, not all landing pages are created equal.
Landing pages are different than your other website pages for a few reasons and should contain at a minimum, the following elements.
No Page Navigation
Landing pages should be designed to be lean mean converting machines and the full navigation menu can distract users. We want them to submit the form and get down to business.
Above the Fold
Keep the main gist of your offer (body copy, image, form, CTA, etc.) above the fold. If the CTA is below the fold and requires a scroll, conversion rates could suffer. You want to make it as easy as possible for the user to convert.
Landing Page Copy
The copy should have a header, a subheader, a few sentences that explain your offering in more detail, and then roughly 3 – 5 supporting bullets that talk about the user benefits of your offer and what the user can expect by submitting the form.
Include an image on your landing page that depicts the offer. The image should be sized appropriately and placed in close proximity to the copy and the CTA making sure to add value and not distract the user from converting.
Here’s an example of the type of image we like to use. Click to see the full funnel in use.
Forms are an absolute must. They are the method you’ll use to capture the lead’s information in exchange for whatever your offering. Make sure that your ask matches the value of the offer. For example, if you have a form 10 questions deep for an infographic, you’ll likely scare away your user.
Insider Tip: My favorite form field is ‘Role’. Role is imperative because it essentially identifies the lead by persona. Role identification allows us to better tailor our workflows, and, not to mention, it gives us better insight into who is actually submitting our forms and engaging with our content. Oh and the bonus is, we’ve found that ‘Role’ is a light ask for the user as it doesn’t hold the same trepidation that company name or phone number can.
All landing pages must have a CTA that’s clearly visible and intuitive to the user as to what they’re getting and what step to do next.
Truthfully, the above just scratches the surface on the information available on landing pages and best practices. Here is an awesome infographic by Unbouncedescribing additional elements of a landing page if you want to learn more.
Thank You Page
Some conversion funnel implementations don’t use a ‘Thank You Page’ (TYP), but we are big fans. In short, a TYP is just that- a page thanking the now lead for submitting their information via the form to obtain whatever it was you were offering. The TYP also hosts an actual link to the file, guide, case study, etc.
If you’re peeking ahead and seeing that we deploy a follow-up email that also contains the asset link and thinking TYPs are pointless, they aren’t! TYPs have an important job and here are a few highlights on what they bring to your conversion funnel:
- Trust: For some leads, submitting information via the form in hopes of obtaining an asset can feel a little uncomfortable. They are likely wondering if they’ll actually get the asset, will they start getting spammed and harassed, etc. TYPs are a chance to build trust with your lead by showing them you’ll give them what you promised and you’ll do it fast.
- Conversion: TYPs have prime real estate for additional CTAs. Make sure the CTAs are relevant and helpful in aiding in the next step of the buyer’s journey. Also, insider tip: Make sure the CTAs are not interfering with the user clicking on the asset to download it. It can go from helpful to intrusive quickly.
- Brand & Site Exploration: Unlike landing pages, TYPs have a full navigation menu and can incorporate links to the company’s social media pages as well. It’s a chance for the lead to explore more on their own.
- Tracking: Without getting too technical for the sake of this post, the TYP is a perfect place to fire your conversion pixel for tracking. Why? Because in order for the TYP to render, the form submission must be completed. You get the lead’s info, they get the asset. Bam. Conversion.
Follow-up emails consist of a direct link to the piece of content (or whatever the CTA promised) and then an additional CTA to interact with your brand an additional way like a newsletter sign up or to check out your blog.
The emails are pretty simple, but we send them for a few reasons.
- User Experience: For example, if your offer is a download of a white paper, how convenient for the lead is it to have the white paper sent to their inbox vs needing to download it and save it right away?
- Conversion: It opens the door of communication with the lead via email and provides them with more ways to convert and interact with your brand right from their inbox.
- Lead Nurturing: Simple follow up emails can be a great segway into lead nurturing as the lead will have already received their first email from you. It seems more natural after sending the high-value first email to continue a cadence.
In summary, now that you know about the elements of a conversion funnel, here are a few reminders to take with you if you put the elements above into practice.
SEO. SEO. SEO.
All conversion funnel elements must be optimized for SEO. Think images, landing pages, meta descriptions, URLs, etc. All of it.
Optimize. Rinse. Repeat.
Nothing in marketing is set it and forget it, including conversion funnels. Let the numbers be your optimization compass. They’ll point you to where you need to focus your attention first.
Marketing is for Humans.
When in doubt, always remember you’re content was created for humans and so were your conversion funnels. Where is your eye naturally drawn? Can you understand what you’re offering quickly and easily? A little humanity gut check can go a long way.
When it comes to your digital marketing program (or at times, lack thereof) conducting a digital audit can be both eye-opening and exciting. Yes, we said exciting! From your website to your content to your tech stack, audits examine it all. The digital marketing audit is your ticket to finding out the state of the state and where the opportunity is for you to make a quick splash on your modern marketing and sales program.
So, if you think you could be squeezing more results out of your current marketing plan or are feeling a little in the dark about your tech stack, then this one’s for you. Here are the 5 types of digital marketing audits Lake One utilizes, along with some of the top probing questions we ask to kick off the process.
1. Google Analytics Audit
The primary purpose of a Google Analytics Audit is to walk-through your site’s tracking implementation and setup. It goes beyond just paid media although that does play a part. From conversion to clicks to time spent on your site, here are a few questions to ask yourself to get you started in the direction.
Questions to ask:
- What are you currently tracking? Are you tracking everything you need to be?
- Is the data you are collecting valid? Can you trust it and make decisions off of it?
- What are the holes? What would you like to be tracking that you aren’t?
- Does anything need to be fixed? Is tracking broken?
- Can reporting and/or tracking be consolidated to make the process cleaner?
2. Website Audit
The fact that you are reading this blog post is a strong indicator that you realize how important your website is, but in case you don’t, we’ll say it: your company’s website is uber important. A website should attract your potential customers and empower them with information, aide in their buyer’s journey, and most importantly, provide opportunities for conversion. Design is critical as well, but great sites contain more substance beyond aesthetics.
At Lake One, we like to review websites for four main areas.
Performance can mean can quite a few things but in a nutshell, this section means, “Does your website pass the blink test?” Not familiar with the blink test? Simply put, are you able to determine within five seconds the purpose of the site, digest some content, and know what steps to take next as a user.
Questions to ask:
- Is the main value proposition clear?
- Is the main navigation menu clear and accessible?
- Is there a clear conversion path? Do the conversion paths flow through the buyer’s journey from awareness through to decision?
- Are there relevant resources for web visitors? Are they accessible?
- Do users know what steps to take next?
Content & SEO Audit
Now we start getting into the nitty-gritty, the ‘substance’ that I was referencing earlier.
When reviewing a website for content, it should be two-fold with both online and offline content. Online content encompasses all of the posts, downloadables, etc. that are accessible by web visitors; offline encompasses all of the sales assets, one-pagers, etc. that may be archived internally.
Questions to ask:
- Does the site contain relevant keywords that align with a clear content & digital strategy?
- Is the content keyword-rich?
- Does the content appeal to different buyer personas?
We create content for people first and foremost. But content needs SEO love to fully reap the benefits of your hard work. SEO is an ever-present tactic we weave throughout all of our digital practices; however, at its most basic, we review from both the content and website construction itself. (Click here for info on finding the SEO keywords that will be the hardest work for you.)
Questions to ask:
- Do the relevant page titles, meta descriptions, URLs, etc use relevant keywords?
- Do the above elements follow SEO best practices for character count, structure, etc.?
- Are the images optimized for SEO as well?
Websites must provide visitors with an opportunity to convert. A website that’s fully optimized for conversion goes beyond a learn more button and a contact us form. You can have all the website traffic in the world, but if the website isn’t converting, you’ve got a problem.
Questions to ask:
- Are there conversion pages at various stages of the funnel?
- Are there any CTA opportunities being missed?
- Is it clear what steps a user needs to take to get that information they need to convert?
A site audit wouldn’t be complete without reviewing the technical implementation and output of the website. Have you ever sat and waited for images to load or content to render and given up? Sure, it might have been a slow glitch in your wifi, but it might not have been. Here’s what to look for when it comes to tech.
Questions to ask:
- What is the site speed?
- Is the design responsive?
- Does the design render well on mobile?
- Are there any crawl issues?
- Is there a sitemap?
4. HubSpot Audit
HubSpot offers a full platform of marketing, sales, customer service, and CRM software. It’s a powerful tool that when fully utilized, can propel your sales and marketing results forward. With all that being said, we love to look under the hood and look for ways to get more out of your HubSpot subscription. We look at the following and more:
- Landing Pages
- Forms/Form Fields
- Thank You Pages
- Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
- Nurture Sequences
When reviewing, first check if those functionalities are in use and then check performance.
Questions to ask:
- How are the above elements performing? (conversion rates, submission rates, etc.)
- Are the nurture sequence emails targeted? What’s the enrollment criteria? Is it useful? Is someone checking those emails?
5. Sales & Marketing Alignment Audit
We have written several pieces on the importance of Sales and Marketing alignment to achieve harmony among client-facing teams. When teams are aligned, it’s dynamite. However, when conducting the audit, think less along the lines of quick wins and more along the lines of building a strong foundation for long-term success.
Questions to ask:
- Do teams have a common definition and understanding of key terms? (i.e. marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, etc.)
- Are teams targeting the same buyers?
- Are teams working towards the same goals?
- Are teams promoting the same products/services?
- Are teams creating content together?
- What is the lead handoff procedure?
- How does sales provide feedback on lead quality?
- Do teams have regular meetings?
For an in-depth look at the questions above, check out our B2B Smarketing Team Assessment.
The best way to move forward and to grow is to gain a complete understanding of where your company is at digitally. Even if you’re not looking to grow (but who isn’t?) no matter where you are at with your marketing, everyone can benefit from a digital marketing audit.
We often discuss the age-old battle that can go down between sales and marketing. The tale of two disparate teams. Well in case you didn’t know, now it’s all about alignment. And… enablement.
Sales enablement according to HubSpot, is the technology, processes, and content that empowers sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity. And brace yourself for this one: marketing plays, or should play, a key role in the sales enablement process for B2B companies.
Whether the above sentence has you ready to fall out of your chair or stand up and clap, read on. We’ll cover why sales enablement should matter to marketers and their role in B2B sales enablement execution.
Why Sales Enablement Should Matter to Marketers
Today’s modern buyers are different from buyers of old. The sales process is heavily led by the buyers and dictated by the market. Who specializes in the buyer’s journey and converting leads to customers alongside sales? Marketing.
A Seismic article quoted Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, as saying the following on an episode of the Sales Enablement Shift podcast, “If you’re in B2B marketing today and you’re not thinking every day about sales, what the pipeline looks like, or how close the organization is to hitting the number, then you’re not nearly as integrated in strategy – let alone tactics or activities – as you should be.” Yaaaasss. 💯
This quote really says it all. If the company isn’t making money, more than just the sales team will be in hot water. The above just drives home the fact that strategy, goals, alignment, and yes sales, should be driving teams company-wide.
Successful sales are everybody’s business, but marketing has the skill set to enable sales to be successful and propel growth.
Marketing’s Role in Sales Enablement
Sales enablement is really less about sales and more about serving the buyer through the buyer’s journey. It results in an empowered sales team that sells at a higher velocity which ultimately equals happier customers.
With that being said, there are several ways marketing can move the needle and enable sales.
Reporting needs vary from company to company, but one constant is the need to qualify leads. Every B2B company has to have some type of lead qualification process. Marketing’s role falls under the Sales and Marketing SLA, but more specifically, the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) process. [Read more about SLAs here.]
At a high level, MQLs are leads that are ready to be qualified by the sales team. Once the criteria are set and agreed upon, marketing can help with the implementation and qualification process. When marketing does some of the qualification and heavy lifting up front (digitally of course) it ensures sales are talking to leads that are ready to be talked to. It’s a win for everybody including the buyer.
A major component of sales enablement is arming the sales team with information they can use when selling. Don’t let your brain pigeonhole you into a sales deck. Information can range from internal best practices to customer-facing sales sheets. According to the TOPO blog, regardless of the form the information takes, it needs to be easy to consume and reusable across the sales organization.
Speaking of easy to use, have we mentioned content audits? Content audits at Lake One are a living breathing workbook that houses all of the client’s content (both internal and external facing). The workbook also notes what part of the buyer’s journey that piece of content serves, the location of the document, the persona, if it is a fit for a workflow, etc.
The best part of the document, though, is the collaboration tab where sales can add content ideas. Think repeat buyer questions, a need for a case study, and more. Marketing can pull directly from the tab to help fill the content calendar.
Email Templates & Automated Sequences
Marketing teams should be pros at nurture sequences (if they’re not, contact us) and pros at moving buyers through the buyer’s journey from a lead to an MQL.
That precise expertise applies to the email template and automated sequences of sales enablement.
How do those differ from marketing based workflows? The email templates and automated sequences can be used pre-marketing qualified lead state or even as a way to qualify MQLs to a sales qualified lead.
Despite the differences, the same basics of sending personalized tailored emails to the buyer still apply. Marketing can leverage their knowledge of lead engagement and automation to enable the sales team.
- A successful sales team should be everyone’s business
- Sales enablement is really less about sales and more about serving the buyer through the buyer’s journey which leads to an empowered sales team selling at a higher velocity.
- Marketing contributes to sales enablement in the following ways:
- The definition and implementation of marketing qualified leads.
- The creation of content that supports sales and in turn, the buyers.
- The creation and implementation of email templates and sequences.
“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”
— James Cash Penney, founder, JC Penney
Sales and marketing misalignment can lead to a domino effect of problems such as internal tension, inability to achieve goals, and even revenue loss. Yikes.
But in order to grow and move forward, it’s crucial to assess and understand where you’re at currently with your smarketing efforts. How aligned are your sales and marketing teams?
Here are 8 must-ask questions to understanding your company’s B2B smarketing state of the state.
B2B Smarketing Question #1: Are Teams Speaking the Same Language?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the first areas for assessment is verbiage and definitions. Communication is key but can be extremely difficult if teams aren’t speaking the same language or starting from some place of commonality.
Questions to ask:
- Do your teams have a common definition and understanding for the following terms?
- Marketing Qualified Lead
- Sales Qualified Lead
- Disqualified Leads
- Lead Status
- Contact Lifecycle Stages
- Deal Stages
- Traffic Sources (direct, referral, search, etc..)
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the sales and marketing alignment terms, but it’s a start. At a minimum, it should get you analyzing the common ground (or lack thereof) between the two teams when it comes to defining the sales and marketing process.
B2B Smarketing Question #2: Are Teams Targeting the Same Buyers?
We have stressed time and time again the importance of buyer personas. Buyer personas (in conjunction with research) should drive your strategy and be another common denominator among your sales and marketing teams and really, the company as a whole.
Questions to ask:
- Are buyer personas defined?
- Did both teams have influence in their creation?
- Are the personas still relevant or do they need to be updated?
B2B Smarketing Question #3: Are Teams Working Towards the Same Goals?
Sales and marketing can be impactful independently, but joined together and working towards the same goal? Teams will achieve much more.
Nothing sets you on the fast-track to success like SMART goals.
Questions to ask:
- Do the teams separately have SMART goals?
- Are the goals well-known among the two teams and agreed upon?
- Are the goals measured and tracked?
B2B Smarketing Question #4: Are Teams Promoting the Same Products/Services?
Not all products and services are created equal. Through defining your buyer personas or crafting your smart goals, you likely surfaced key areas of focus whether it be new product offerings, key industries, revenue generation, etc.
For example, if demos have been unsuccessful but consults are effective, marketing likely shouldn’t be pushing demos as their bottom of the funnel offer in the nurture sequences.
Questions to ask:
- Is sales aware of the products/services that marketing is promoting and vice versa?
- Are both teams in agreement on the best direction?
B2B Smarketing Question #5: Are Teams Creating Content Together?
Although content creation doesn’t necessarily fall under the job descriptions of the sales team, sales should have an influence in content topic selection. Why? Because they are the front lines and literally the voice of the customer inside the company. Pairing sales’ insight with marketing’s keyword research skills is a great start to creating valuable content for your buyers.
Insider tip: We like to take it one step further and create what we call a content audit. It’s a living document that houses links to all of the content created and breaks it down by buyer persona and stage of the buyer’s journey. There’s also a tab for content requests that’s a direct line into marketing’s content topic queue. Here are some additional smarketing best practices to help.
Questions to ask:
- What processes currently drive content topic selection?
- Does sales approve?
- Is there a way for sales to communicate content requests to marketing?
- Does marketing have an audit document or something like it?
B2B Smarketing Question #6: What is Marketing’s Lead Handoff Procedure?
Marketing curates leads through inbound or paid media and then at some agreed upon point, the leads need to be passed to sales to be contacted and qualified. There are a few ways to accomplish the handoff. Our favorite is using marketing automation software (HubSpot) to do the heavy lifting. However, software aside, aligned smarketing teams should be able to answer the questions below.
Questions to ask:
- At what point in the process does marketing handoff a lead to sales? What triggers it?
- How is sales notified of the lead?
- What is the follow-up expectation from sales? (i.e. how many days do they have before they make contact, how are they contacting the lead, etc.)
B2B Smarketing Question #7: How Does Sales Provide Feedback on Lead Quality?
In order for marketing to continue to deliver the sales team quality leads, there needs to be a feedback loop. Sales needs to communicate through lead status- the quality of the lead. This ties back all the way up to the first question about definitions.
Questions to ask:
- How does sales communicate a rejected lead? (marketing automation software or otherwise?)
- Does sales have a way to communicate why leads were rejected? (Poor timing, bad contact information, no budget, etc.)
- What does marketing do with the rejected leads? Where are the leads at now?
B2B Smarketing Question #8: Do Teams Have Regular Meetings?
Actually meeting in person, having conversations, and building rapport are critical to sales and marketing alignment success. It’s so much easier to work as a team when you have a strong foundation to work from.
So how do you build rapport? Meetings. But let’s be clear, quality of meetings should be prioritized over quantity. Nothing disengages teams like pointless meetings.
Questions to ask:
- Do teams have monthly and/or quarterly meetings?
- Do teams have a way to easily communicate outside of meetings? (Like Slack or Skype)
The trick to these meetings are to make them engaging, yet structured. Here’s an article with some great tips for doing just that.
B2B Smarketing Key Takeaway: Communication is a Must
Do the questions above have your head spinning or wondering where to even start to begin to achieving sales and marketing harmony?
Start with communication. If there is one commonality that leads to the improvement of sales and marketing alignment, it’s communication. It fuels defining the terminology, the buyer personas, content creation, and the entire smarketing process. Whether facilitated through technology or happening in regular scheduled meetings, it’s critical.
Need a little help with your sales and marketing alignment? You’re in luck because that’s our specialty. Contact us here.
When looking at the entire digital marketing technology landscape (all 7,040 options according to Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic), you have a lot of choices.
So when building your B2B search engine marketing tech stack, where do you start? With our article of course. Here are some of the must-have marketing tools for your B2B SEO stack.
But First, Strategy
We do need to preface this post with a word of caution and Intercom says it well, “a tool is not a strategy”. They go on to say, “you can compare different software packages by their features, but that’s like marrying someone based on their dating profile. The real value marketing software offers is in the strategy and approach it enables.”
So with that being said, start with the strategy and follow with technology. Don’t get lost swimming in the martech ocean of options.
Tech that Attracts & Optimizes
HubSpot’s new Flywheel is the latest and greatest model when it comes to how people think about their businesses. (Curious about the Flywheel? Learn more here). The Flywheel is broken down into three stages: Attract, Engage, and Delight. For this post, we’ll focus on tools that help attract visitors and as a little bonus, many of the tools serve a dual purpose with the ability to help curate data for later optimizations. Technology BOGO.
Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation software. The mothership. The big Kahuna. It’s almost impossible to talk about digital marketing technology without at least mentioning it. So what exactly is marketing automation? According to HubSpot, marketing automation is defined as the following:
Marketing Automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions such as emails, social, and other website actions.
In addition to the tasks noted above, most marketing automation software has additional features that can help to attract website visitors, which brings us to HubSpot.
HubSpot is inbound marketing, sales, and service software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Although that definition is somewhat technical, HubSpot really can be a one-stop shop.
At Lake One, we’re big fans of HubSpot and not to mention, we’re also a HubSpot Gold Agency. However, admittedly, HubSpot is an investment in time and in most cases, money. Pricing varies from free to paid based on different services and Hubs.
Why we love it: We love HubSpot for its multi-use features that allow our marketing activities to stay connected in one platform. A few of our HubSpot favorites that further B2B SEO efforts are:
- Landing pages: HubSpot makes it easy to create and duplicate landing pages that are optimized for conversion.
- Forms: Forms are a must when it comes to capitalizing on the traffic you drive (whether paid or organic) to your website
- Reporting: Although this doesn’t directly impact SEO, it sure does when it comes to optimization and measuring the effectiveness of your efforts. You can see where traffic is coming from and how visitors are converting (or not converting) on your site.
If you are hesitant to make the leap and purchase marketing automation software, rest assured that there are other tools out there to help you with your SEO objectives. Read on dear reader, read on.
If you’re an avid Lake One blog reader, you know we love data-driven decision making. The same rules apply for B2B SEO and especially, keyword research.
Ahrefs is a well-known tool for backlinks and SEO analysis. You can audit your website, research competitors, and explore keywords and content. For keywords specifically, you can see top questions, new keywords, and keyword suggestions.
Why we love it: Among other things, Ahrefs gives you insight into how many backlinks it would take to rank on Google’s page one. We can plan our goals and outreach efforts accordingly with their additional insight.
Google Analytics gives you a birds-eye view of your organic traffic but also allows you to drill-down into specifics like channel or by segment such as audience, behavior, and conversion reports for your organic traffic segment.
Why we love it: It’s a time-tested, reliable source- it’s the Granddad of web analytics. We also love that we can set up goals to track traffic as it moves through specific funnels as a means to monitor how audiences navigate through the site.
For more info on GA, check out this article by Medium.
Content Creation Tools
When it comes to B2B SEO, content creation is inevitable. You must be doing it. Here are a few of our favorite content creation tools.
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) which accounts for both entire websites and stand-alone blogs.
Why we love it: We’ve found it to be easy to use and really allows for concentrated SEO efforts through plug-ins like Yoast.
Unbounce is a platform that allows you to quickly create, launch, and test-high converting landing pages, popups, and sticky bars without developers.
Why we love it: If you decide to go sans HubSpot or another marketing automation software with landing page capabilities, this is the next best thing. You can easily create customized landing pages and have insights into the data for optimization.
Digital outreach and backlink building are critical, yet manual, components of SEO. If done right, outreach should be personalized and tailored to each opportunity. As you can imagine, when it takes several earned backlinks to make an impact on B2B SEO, digital outreach can be time-consuming.
BuzzStream helps automate some of the outreach processes through researching influencers, managing your relationships, and conducting outreach that’s personalized yet efficient all in one single platform.
Why we love it: Especially as our team continues to grow, it’s critical we have outreach housed in a visible platform for the team at large to access. It takes outreach out of the depths of our inbox and puts it in front of our team.
- Don’t mistake tools as a strategy. Lead with a strategy and tools and technology should follow.
- Marketing Automation Software like HubSpot is awesome, but not necessary to achieve your B2B SEO goals.
- Content tools that help you easily create and optimize landing pages are a must.
- No matter what tools you use, you can’t forget about the linkage! Digital Outreach can be time-consuming, but critical.
If ‘Content is king’, SEO is most definitely queen.
The SEO landscape is ever changing; however, the need for traffic and for your company to rank on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is not.
According to MOZ, SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. And do you know what goes hand-in-hand with SEO? Keywords. Keywords are at the very core of SEO. They are defined as words and phrases that people type into search engines in order to find the answers to their questions.
Keywords are a critical component for SEO strategy because they play a significant role in helping your website rank on SERPs. Higher rankings equal more traffic to your website and ultimately, more conversions. Here are tips for identifying B2B SEO keywords.
The Long and Short of It
There are several variations of keywords combinations, and not all keywords are created equal. The type of keyword you select depends solely on your goals, the buyer you want to attract, and the results you want to achieve.
There are two main types of keywords:
Short/Header Keywords: Short keywords are just that, short words that typically describe a category. For example, SEO. Short keywords can be flashy and shiny from a volume perspective, but they tend to be lofty goals and often requires deep pockets to make any headway against the competition.
Long Tail Keywords: Long tail keywords are longer searches and can often contain more intent. Long tail keywords typically have lower volume than some of the short keywords, but they can pack a powerful punch when it comes to competition. Space is less crowded.
Short Keyword: SEO
Long Tail Keyword: How do I identify keywords for B2B SEO?
Think About Your Buyer Personas
Before we get too in the weeds on types of keywords, volume, and difficulty, we need to take a step back and think, “Who are my buyers and how are they searching?. Buyer personas are at the heart of inbound and should be a driving force in your B2B SEO strategy. Buyer personas, according to HubSpot, are a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
Part of defining your buyer personas are thinking about their pain points, how they are searching, what they are searching for, and when. The buyer’s journey, is the process buyers go through to become aware of their problem or pain, consider and evaluate solutions, and decide to purchase a new product or service.
Meeting your buyers where they are at in the buyer’s journey with keywords that align to how they search is the ultimate goal. In order to do that, break it down by stage.
In the awareness stage, the buyer knows they have a problem, but they may not be able to put a name to their pain yet so search terms in the awareness stage are often questions.
Keyword Example: How do I get my company to rank on Google? How do I get more visitors to my website?
In the consideration stage, the buyer is aware they have a problem and has begun to consider solutions to the problem.
Keyword Example: SEO Solutions, Options for improving SEO, How to build a B2B SEO strategy
In the decision stage, the buyer is looking for a solution and likely ready to buy. Here they are comparing solutions, reading reviews, and making the decision of who to buy from.
Keyword Example: B2B SEO agencies near me, Best B2B SEO agency
Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes, familiarize yourself with your persona stories. From there, let the research begin. For more information on aligning keywords with your buyer’s journey, check out this article.
Third-party keyword research tools are essential when it comes to selecting keywords. The tools can help us learn about keyword volume, keyword difficulty, and help us to discover new keyword opportunities.
There are several keyword research tools in the marketplace, but here are a few favorites.
Ahrefs is a tool widely known for backlinks and SEO analysis. Their Keywords Explorer provides relevant keyword ideas and traffic estimations and in particular. The tool also provides estimates on how many backlinks you need to obtain in order to rank for a given term.
Keywords Everywhere is one of Ryan’s favorites. It’s a free browser add-on that shows search volume, cost-per-click, and competition data when you visit a SERP. Plus, unlike Ahrefs, it’s free! Can’t beat that.
It’s hard to talk about SEO and not mention MOZ. MOZ is a widely popular SEO tool that allows you to do in-depth keyword research and SERP analysis through researching volume, quality, and competitive analysis. In addition to the tool, they offer training and great tips for leveraging local search.
Okay, so you’re in tune with your buyers, you are thinking about tools, but what’s next? You need to generate a B2B SEO keyword list before you can start honing in on your targets. Here are a few of our recommendations for keyword inspiration outside of running searches in the tools mentioned above.
Especially if you are embarking on a new B2B SEO effort, do a temperature check and see where you are at with your current rankings. What terms are you ranking for? Are they relevant? Are there terms that you would like to rank higher for? If so, add them to your list and do a deep dive on the stats to understand what it will take to move the needle.
Check out what the competition is doing. What are they writing about? What phrases are they using? As we mentioned above, keyword research can help you do some digging to see what’s happening behind the scenes but don’t discount paying your competitors site a visit and seeing what you can gleam yourself. There’s something to be said for a little digital sleuthing.
One of the most obvious, but most likely to be missed suggestion with all of the tools and data at our disposal, is literally a Google search. Try googling a keyword you are interested in and review the suggested search terms at the bottom of the SERP page for ideas.
Also, see who comes up in the SERPs. What topics are they writing about? It can give you an idea of what content is already ranking towards the top in answer to your buyers’ queries.
Keyword selection is both an art and a science and involves choosing quality keywords. Keyword quality is often talked about by describing both the search volume and the difficulty of the keyword.
Keyword Search Volume: Search volume is the number of people searching for the keyword for a given set of time. Most platforms aggregate the volume number monthly.
Keyword Difficulty: Keyword difficulty is a numerical score which indicates how hard it would be to rank in the top position on the SERPS for the keyword term or phrase.
As a rule of thumb, you should select higher volume, lower difficulty keywords that still align with your buyer personas and content strategy.
Looking for help with your B2B SEO Strategy? Request a consult.
- Bring it back to the personas – as with all things inbound, they should be at the heart of your strategy.
- Do your research and leverage third-party tools to help you aggregate data around volume, difficulty, and opportunity.
- Look outside the keyword research tools for keyword inspiration from your current rankings, competitors and real-time Google searches.