Guest post by Dhruv Mehta. Significantly edited from the original.
In a recent survey, B2B marketers and sales leaders were asked to name their most important metric for business success. Unsurprisingly, the metric that clinched the first position was “quality of leads.”
Throughout the pandemic, B2B marketers have had to rapidly and repeatedly react to changes in the work structure and priorities of B2B buyers, based on incomplete and imperfect data.
This crisis response led them to identify several short- and long-term trends. However, one of the most important discoveries, part of the “next normal,” is the increased preference for and predisposition of customers towards online self-service.
According to a McKinsey survey, roughly 75% of B2B buyers say they prefer digital self-service and remote engagement over interpersonal interactions — an attitude that has steadily increased even as lockdowns ended.
While safety was the primary reason for this shift initially, the ease of self-service and remote interactions have enduring appeal for buyers in accessing information and services.
In the face of this shift, B2B leaders have moved on from being “forced into” the adoption of digital practices as a reaction to a general acceptance of them as the new way of doing things. Online self-service has established itself as a pervasive phenomenon, with digital and remote engagement being embraced by decision-makers worldwide.
To capitalize on these market shifts to increase both the quantity and quality of your leads in the post-pandemic B2B marketplace, here are six top lead generation trends to watch in 2021.
When B2B sales prospects and customers share their contact and other information with a vendor, they expect that information to be used to personalize their brand experience. Personalization is so important that 71% of people report feeling frustrated when their shopping experience is not customized to them. Personalization is for the lead generation and nurturing process.
If your offering, messaging, and website content don’t speak to the buyer’s intent (what your ideal prospect is looking for), you won’t grab the visitor’s attention and spark an interest in your offering. To make this challenge an opportunity, personalize your outreach and offer relevant content or services to customers based on their needs.
You can switch up your personalization efforts by tailoring your landing page, incentives, rewards, offers, and recommendations to foster a personalized experience based on the prospect’s industry, browsing history, online behavior, and stage of purchase.
Personalization not only enhances the prospect’s experience but also helps you attract more leads and positively impact the conversion rate.
Conversational marketing via the use of live chat will be on the rise in 2021. So much so that a J.D. Power survey claimed that it was the leading method of digitally contacting online customers with a staggering 42% preference rate.
A form of artificial intelligence, live chat allows customers to interact with support representatives in real-time through a chat box on your website. It can be set up with or without a chatbot, and is usually deployed on web pages to offer customers instant support and help them along the buyer journey.
Often, people prefer live chat because it can provide quick responses to their queries. It automates customer support at scale through chatbots that answer the most common questions and route more sophisticated queries to human agents.
Deploying chatbots can add personalization to your outreach strategy and targets leads in a much more personal manner. This is a valuable way to increase engagement, as an Accenture report found that 83% of organizations could perform better if they were improved on their live or automated interpersonal customer service.
It’s simple to create an opt-in form and deploy it on your live chat. The form can ask prospects for their information and whether they want to opt into receiving information about the product or service you are selling.
This way, your live chat agent can target and nurture the prospect in a more personalized manner because they already “know” the visitor is interested in your offering.
Live chat software can boost your lead generation efforts significantly. The Dufresne Group, a home furnishings company, discovered this when they deployed live chat to not only service customer queries but also sell products to them. This prompted a surge of prospects, with the company receiving more than 1,000 chat requests within only two weeks of launching live chat.
According to a Juniper Research report, the number of voice assistants in use worldwide surpassed the 4.2 billion mark last year and is projected to top 8.4 billion by 2024. Furthermore, a Canalys survey found that the number of voice assistant owners stands at 66.4 million in the U.S., amounting to 40% of the entire population. With such huge reach, voice search is clearly worth evaluating as part of your marketing strategy.
Additionally, 48% of internet users have been using voice since before 2020 for regular web searches, including e-commerce. This makes voice search optimization an important component of SEO strategy. With strong underlying links between SEO and voice assistants, voice search can effectively be leveraged for generating local leads.
Consequently, there’s been a strong emphasis on the use and optimization of long-tail keywords recently. This is because long-tail keywords more closely reflect normal speech patterns.
Coupled with the improvement of voice search technology over the past few years, marketers have taken note and will increasingly employ it as a medium to generate more leads in 2021 and beyond.
In order to attract more prospects and generate better leads, your website content has to become more conversational. You can achieve this by focusing on search terms and phrases that match your target audience’s vernacular. In addition, you can focus on optimizing your listings and reviews to generate more inquiries and leads.
Take Kroll, for example. By employing voice search in their marketing campaigns, they were able to generate 71% more leads and earn $300,000 in additional revenue.
With personal interactions off limits during the pandemic, digital platforms became the primary mode of communication. Video emerged as one of the most efficient channels for interacting with prospects and closing deals.
A survey conducted by McKinsey highlighted how B2B leaders found video interactions to be more helpful than phone communications. This applies not only to communicating with current customers but also to engaging with suppliers and vendors.
Video interactions by sales teams helped B2B organizations maintain and even grow revenue in 2020, as well as benefitting marketing and customer service programs. With 90% of decision-makers saying videoconferencing will be popular in 2021 and beyond, video is a vital component of B2B lead generation strategy.
You can live stream webcasts and webinars to generate leads, directly sell services or products, and improve customer engagement on your website. You can also help prospects by streaming Q&A sessions, product walkthroughs, and webinars after knowing what they are looking for.
With advancements in artificial intelligence, there are an increasing number of AI-based marketing and sales tools available today that can gather data, extract insights from it, and meaningfully present the findings. These tools have grown in popularity over the past few years, with a study showing that 30% of its respondents already use both Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics.
In 2020 alone, as many as 57% of organizations began leveraging user analytics to inform their lead generation strategy. As such, it is expected that lead generation will continue to grow more data-driven, with analytics playing an increasingly important role.
With the help of user analytics, you can generate insights about trends in traffic volume, sources, and visitor engagement. These findings will help guide your link-building and link-earning efforts for SEO and referral purposes, enabling you to increase your promotion budget for sources that drive the most traffic to your website.
Coupled with marketing automation software, they can also help you track prospect visits to help target them more effectively and guide them along their journey.
With winning new deals being the most important metric for sales teams, it’s natural for them to express frustration with marketers about the quality of the leads passed on to them when the conversion rate is too low. Unfortunatley, only 56% of B2B marketers check for the validity of leads before passing them on to the sales department.
Poor-quality leads are often among the biggest reasons for missing revenue targets. To consistently generate high-quality leads, align your marketing and sales teams through timely communication, collaboration, and a set of agreed-upon metrics and lead criteria to be used by both groups.
Integrating your sales and marketing people and processes enables your organization to design a coherent, effective workflow for generating, scoring, nurturing, and moving leads through the sales process.
Using the right marketing and sales technology, including a modern CRM platform, is also essential for the practical integration of the sales and marketing levels. With the help of automated workflows, both teams will be able to keep track of the status of the lead and take the right action to either nurture or convert the lead.
As they say in the world of mutual fund investing, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” The pandemic has produced permanent structural changes in buying behaviors and preferences. What worked in the past may not work as well going forward.
With the end of the pandemic and lockdowns in sight, this is the ideal time to thoughtfully evaluate all aspects of your digital marketing strategy, from personalization and SEO to analytics and sales-marketing alignment. As lead generation and prospect engagement goes more digital and omnichannel, following the trends above will be vital to maintain your competitiveness and drive lead growth.
Dhruv Mehta is a Digital Marketing Professional who works at Acquire and provides solutions in the digital era. In his free time, he loves to write on tech and marketing. He is a frequent contributor to Tweak Your Biz. You can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.