I’m going to break this blog into 3 components.
1. Identifying Customers. Nuances and Intricacies of Customer Research.
2. Experimenting with Lead Gen channels.
3. Bucketing leads into MQL, SQL, SAL, Opportunity, Pilot, Closed, etc.
As a B2B company, when you think about lead generation, one of the first things you ought to do is to identify who your potential customers are!
While a simple google search on “How to go about Customer Research”, will give you hundreds of articles talking about thousands of ways to do it, this particular blog isn’t going to be a repeat of that. Instead, we’ll dive into the micro-est details that you should consider, which most other articles miss.
As a B2B business, I assume that you would be able to sell your product anywhere across the world, but selling in different countries & regions has its own nuances which you’ll need to observe closely to identify them.
One of the first things you should take into account while researching your potential customers, apart from identifying your customers' needs & wants, is considering their cultural & regional backgrounds.
The above 2 aspects give you a tremendous understanding of the thought process & the decision making choices of your customer. The content that you create, the text that you put on the landing page can be customized according to the local style & lingo etiquettes. For example, the spelling differences between American English & British English — Color vs Colour, Optimization vs Optimisation, Program vs Programme, Gray vs Grey, Airplane vs Aeroplane, Holiday vs Vacation.
The minute details that are not easily visible to a human eye, nor on your Google Analytics account, are huge influencing factors in your customers' buying process. Creating content that showcases location-specific nuances will help you have higher conversion rates. These tiny aspects have a huge impact, especially in emails & landing pages.
Another aspect that doesn't seem to matter but plays an important role, is when there’s a hierarchy between multiple countries. For instance, when having multiple geo-specific phone numbers on your website, which number would be listed at the top of your web page? Although it seems like a minute detail, it shows a propensity towards a particular region and it also forms an unconscious bias in your prospective customers’ head.
All in all, I believe, your focus should be to tailor your landing pages to the micro’est detail possible targeting your customer segment. Additional elements could also include, showcasing country-specific PR articles, listing features that appeal more to a specific region, displaying images of local landscapes/people, if the target market can relate to them more. etc. Understand the culture, base your messaging tailored to each geography — What one person thinks is normal and acceptable can feel odd, offensive, or foreign to another person.
Customers located in different parts of the world perceive the same things differently. People with different cultural backgrounds perceive your brand differently. Even within the U.S., there are different styles. For example, New Yorkers are known for being more brash and direct, while SoCal folks are often more indirect and laid back.
Can you tell when someone is being a jerk, or they’re just being direct (sometimes they’re the same thing)?
I have shared a video below that captures a slightly funny and extreme case of this, with a German and New Zealand couple discussing the different ways to discuss changing a dirty kitchen towel:
The point is that you may not even know when you’re offending, or not getting through to someone.
The second part of this blog is identifying which lead gen channel works for you.
Here’s a list of all PPC channels that you could experiment with —
Google Ads — Search, Display
IT Central Station
Facebook & Instagram Ads
There isn’t really a way in which you would be able to point-blank pick a channel as a Go-To before trying it out. Experimenting by spending a significant amount between $500 - $2000 on every single channel & then figuring out what works best for you in terms of conversions is the way to go.
Meanwhile, not all channels where you have the lowest Cost Per Lead are good for you. Sometimes even though certain channels incur a higher CPL, the ROI with respect to CAC (Cost of Acquiring a Customer)is what should ideally be tracked/measured.
The third & final part of this blog is defining the status of the leads & bucketing them— Having a quantifiable way to clearly define each stage of the funnel is super important, especially the transition between Marketing Qualified Lead, Sales Qualified Lead, and Sales Accepted Lead.
One of the long-drawn arguments between the Marketing & Sales teams is the thin line between qualifying leads between different stages in the funnel. Since the marketing team’ ROI is measured on the number of SQLs, while the Sales teams ROI is measured by how many SQLs they convert to a customer.
Although it looks like a simple solution on the outset to use lead scoring or other business criteria to differentiate each lead stage. But over time you’ll realize the definition of each stage keeps changing with the changing business dimensions.
Here’s a baseline definition for each of the lead stages that you could use to start with and keep changing as and when needed.
An MQL could be defined as a lead that has attained a certain lead score that shows a higher potential intent than a regular lead. Primarily, you assign a score for completing certain tasks on your website, like time spent, # of recurring visits, download of whitepaper/case study, watched a video, opened & clicked on emails, negative scores for visiting the career page, additional points for visiting pricing page, various other factors like Company Size, Industry, etc.
An SQL is essentially an MQL with higher intent to buy your product. SQLs are generally pushed to your Sales team, who would then have a discovery call with the lead to identify the problem statement & validate if your product/solution could solve their pain point and find a mutual fit between the 2 companies.
As the name suggests, you move leads to this stage when the Sales executive believes that there is an opportunity to pursue after the discovery call with the lead, and clearly understands the needs & wants of the potential customer.
This is a stage in the funnel where the sales team has already demo’ed the product, identified an opportunity with the lead, and is working on getting an executive/decision-maker buy-in, and hence can clearly identify an opportunity to turn this lead to revenue.
A Pilot is a bridge between the Opportunity and the Contract Stage of the funnel. Pilots are conducted to verify if the solution presented during the demo, actually works in a real-life scenario and solves the problem as intended. Most of the time, the decision on closing contract rests on how well the product/solution performs in the Pilot.
This may or may not exist according to your business model.
You move a lead to this stage when you are having pricing and terms discussions. One of the key reasons to put in this stage in the funnel is that a lot of deals fall out in this contract negotiation phase, where the lead might also have been evaluating your competitors and having pricing & terms discussions. Having this stage will give you insights into another product that was chosen instead of yours in the final stage of the buying process.
A closed lead (won) is a sale/ a deal that has been closed and your contract has been signed. It represents the finish line for the sales team and the starting point for the customer success team. You finished the full course of converting a lead to a customer.
Celebrate the Win!
A closed lead(lost) is any lead that is not going to be pursued. Leads in this stage can come in from various other funnels, sometimes as early as the MQL & SQL stages, where you realize there isn’t a mutual fit and decide to not pursue the leads anymore.
There would be various reasons why you lost these accounts and having visibility on the reason will give you immense information regarding your sales cycle, product, pricing & competitors.
A cold lead is when the prospect, literally has gone cold on you. And you aren’t quite sure why. The ideal way to handle these leads is to add them to your product newsletters and keep them in the loop where they are constantly updated on the new feature releases. And if and when they decide to get back to you, you would be able to revive them.
Churn is when an existing customer has stopped using your product/services and has pulled out of the contract. This is the hardest lead stage because it has a direct hit on your revenue.
A quantitative & qualitative analysis of the reasons for the churn will provide insights on the promises that the product or company couldn’t meet. Having this stage will immensely help teams across the entire company to create a future plan of action.