Generating sales leads online for B2B products and services can seem counterintuitive at first. After all, those business deals tend to rely on personal relationships developed over years of networking and sales prospecting. In fact, I know a few B2B salespeople who tend to avoid doing any of that networking online: "not enough time," "not efficient," "not how I work," I often hear from them.
But despite their reluctance to plunge into the online B2B sales lead generation game, it's fair to say that B2B companies that don't plan for and invest in an online presence are missing out on our increasingly global marketplace, where potential leads can't visit your office but can still get to know you through virtual means.
When it comes to online sales lead generation, here are the 5 factors we consider the most important if you want to convert qualified visitors into leads.
We can't say it often enough: your website is the virtual equivalent of a first impression. If it's old, badly designed or simply inexistent, you'll miss out on quite a lot of potential leads just because visitors will be turned off.
An archaic-looking website jumps out right away, and so do amateur ones. With today's wide variety of looks and styles, as well as advanced technical possibilities, websites don't have to be boring. They still need to be usable, but the possibilities are rather close to endless (see some beautiful Drupal websites).
What does your website need to be attractive to leads? I've discussed these elements at length in this blog post, but in summary:
- A clear value proposition
- Social proof
- Good "About us" page
- Contact info
- A blog (you'll see why it matters for B2B leads below)
All of this should be packaged in a visually pleasing website that still follows web usability best practices.
2. Portfolio or case studies
The second most important element to convice potential clients is a good portfolio page or, if you're not in the creative field, at least a few case studies.
These are really important because they show how your past and current clients have found success with your product or service. If there's no proof of your company's ability to serve what it promises, it's not likely that you'll develop any kind of trust with visitors and leads.
For example, our portfolio is a great source of information for our potential clients. There they can find examples of websites in similar fields and categories as their business, and they can check out our work to see if it fits their style and needs.
Case studies are a bit different. They go in more depth about the process, the solution and the results of using your product or services. They work especially well for complex products and services; they also help a lot for companies with long sales lifecycles.
Content is a rather vague and general term when it comes to the internet; basically everything on there is content. For the purposes of this blog post, we'll consider content the helpful information found on your website. What "helpful" means depends on who your target audience is.
To determine your level of expertise and your involvement in the field, a potential lead will look through your website for evidence of helpful, informational content that teaches him or her about your product or service, your field of work, etc. This can be developed in several forms:
- Blog posts, white papers, ebooks
- Slideshare presentations
Again, companies with longer sales lifecycles will find that using a variety of content types will help leads move along the cycle faster. Share some relevant content to hook them up, follow up with some great lead nurturing emails, and voilà! a lead that your sales team can close in no time.
4. Expertise of employees
When you deal with a business, you ultimately deal with its whole team, whether you spoke to them in the sales process or not. So it's good to know that the people who are going to build your product or provide the services you need know what they're doing.
Bios on team pages can help with that, but do you know what's more effective? Blog posts.
Every member of your team (or at least a reprensentative of every department) should contribute to your company's blog. As a potential lead looks at your website and your blog, he or she will see that your employees know what they're talking about and provide helpful advice.
If that doesn't contribute to visitor trust, I don't know what does!
5. Presence on social media
A potential lead will also take a look at what you're saying on social media. There are way too many examples of companies losing bundles of customers because of a mistake on social media (see how you can recover from such a crisis here, if it should happen to you).
A carefully planned social media presence that still lets individuality and human-ness shine through is the best way to convince site visitors that there's a human behind every interaction. (Nobody likes robots THAT much.) They'll have a look at how you interact with followers, how fast you answer to mentions, questions and inquiries, and check out the content you share.
As in the factor above, make sure that your social media presence contributes to your reputation for expertise and helpfulness.
Putting it all together
All these factors will make a difference in how many online B2B sales leads you get. Having a strong digital strategy will help you figure out how to put these pieces together to increase your leads, conversions and sales.
Want more details about how you can make your website more effective? Check out our free ebook, 25 Effective Ways to Improve Your Website, filled with practical tips on how you can make your website more visible and more effective in converting visitors to leads and leads into sales.
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