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Are you hitting your lead generation targets but your conversion into sales opportunities is not meeting your expectations? Not only does a weak lead conversion rate increase the sales team’s lack of interest and faith in marketing qualified leads, but more importantly it is hurting the company’s bottom line.

After spending money and efforts into generating leads, how can you ensure they are moving down the funnel and generating more revenue?

Here are 5 best practices that will help you improve your B2B lead conversion efforts.

Strengthen sales and marketing alignment

It is no secret that marketing and sales can be quite disconnected from each other. Marketing is working on a new product launch, while sales might be focused on growing a different side of the business which often results in marketing efforts not being properly followed up on and sales complaining about not getting the right support. Bringing these teams together is a key success factor to increase conversions.

  • Align your goals: Sales and marketing goals should always be supporting each other, whether it be which market(s) to focus on or how many qualified leads are needed for the sales team to hit their target. As obvious as this may sound, having a regular check in will ensure that both teams remain on the same page.
  • Set a higher standard for lead quality: As part of aligning sales and marketing goals, also ensure that your definition of a marketing qualified lead and sales qualified lead meets both teams’ expectations. If you are struggling with conversion, it might be time to revise these definitions and set a higher standard for lead quality. By keeping them longer in the hands of marketing, leads are better qualified and therefore more likely to convert when they get in the hands of the sales team.
  • Empower the sales team: Marketing has a personal interest in seeing the leads they generate convert into not only sales opportunities but also revenue. To optimize conversions, the marketing team needs to support the sales team by educating them on their initiatives and providing them with the right tools, (such as additional resources and messaging), to help them cross the finish line.

Refine your targeting

One of the first rules in marketing is to understand your audience well. However, to what level of complexity you choose to segment your audience is up to you. If your organization is suffering from a low lead conversion rate, refining your targeting strategy is a must!

  • Identify specific buyer personas: While segmentation is not a new concept in marketing, building buyer personas is too often ignored by B2B marketers because of its complexity. And yet 58% of B2B content marketers consider “Audience Relevance” to be the most important factor in determining content marketing effectiveness according to the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Spotlight Report.
  • Understand your buyer’s journey: Spend some time understanding your buyer’s journey by reviewing all of the steps your buyer is taking, from the time he/she first becomes a lead to the close of the deal. Consider what information they need before they are ready to buy, how long the cycle is, what communication channel they like, and so on.
  • Create tailored campaigns and messaging: Once step one and two are established you can start crafting targeted and personalized campaigns for each persona which will help move your leads down the funnel and yield a much higher return on investment.

Engage and nurture your leads

You have spent time and money on generating new leads, but they are not ready to buy and are stuck in pipeline limbo. The good news is that someone who has already raised their hand is much more likely to convert than a new lead. In other words, you are sitting on great untapped potential that just needs to be warmed up a little longer until you have either gained their trust or the time is right for them to buy from you. Leverage the work done from defining buyer personas to build strong and tailored nurture streams and provide engaging and relevant content until they are mature enough to be handed over to your sales team.

Here is an example of a nurture stream:

  • 1st email – Start with an educational thought leadership asset on a specific topic
  • 2nd email – Follow with a third-party analyst report explaining why this topic is relevant and how to choose the right solution (ideally ranking you very well of course)
  • 3rd email – Provide a customer case study or video praising your solution
  • 4th email – End on a more salesy messaging explaining why you are the right solution provider for them to partner with.

By the end of this nurture stream, if the time is right for them, you have their attention and the sales team will be happy to take over.

Test, test, test

The beauty of digital marketing is that you can make fast changes to your campaigns and try out different strategies with little or no additional investment. This is particularly true with email marketing but is also applicable throughout your entire digital presence.

Here are a few things you can easily test out and tweak along the way with very little effort:

  • Try different delivery channels, days and times. One of your targeted persona might be more responsive to social media while the other will respond better to an email. Some people read their emails first thing Monday morning while others catch up Friday afternoon after a full week of traveling…
  • Try out engaging headlines, offers and hooks. Take advantage of free online tools to help you craft attention-grabbing headlines and email subjects to get your audience to pay attention as well as great hooks to keep their attention.
  • Try various Call to Actions (CTA). Always keep CTAs clear and simple (i.e. click here to download the report, click here to contact us, etc.) to get your audience to take the next step right away.

Trying out different strategies can help you understand what works best for your audience and optimize their nurture streams to efficiently move them down the pipeline. To optimize and speed up this process, you can decide to do some A/B testing to test two different versions at once.

Learn and optimize

One pitfall that any organization can fall into is to be focused on what’s coming next without taking the time to reflect on recent achievements, particularly if the ROI target wasn’t met. Nonetheless, there is a lot to learn from mistakes and testing out new strategies and tactics. With the vast amount of marketing tools available to execute, optimize and analyze campaigns, marketers have the opportunity not only to show the organization how they are contributing to the company’s growth but also the ability to constantly fine tune their marketing strategy and activities in order to optimize its results.

  • Set clear goals to measure results against and draw clear learnings from (i.e. number of new leads, number of meetings, number of downloads, etc.).
  • Have consistent and clear reporting methods to make the most sense of marketing accomplishments and compare different campaign results against each other.
  • Apply learnings to on-going or future campaigns to optimize results. Don’t be afraid to scratch off certain strategies that didn’t pay off as much as anticipated and spend more effort on the ones that did.

These five steps to improve your B2B lead conversion rate are not a one-time thing but rather an on-going strategy that helps successful marketers continuously improve their ROI and contribute to the company’s growth.