lead generation

B2B Lead Generation: A 2018 Mid-Year Check-In

Seems like just yesterday when our news feeds teemed with those “B2B Lead Generation Trends to Watch in 2018” posts. As technology marches onward and customer expectations continue to evolve, some of those predictions are bearing fruit and earning a spot in our long-term B2B marketing strategies (others, not so much).

With half the year already behind us, we have the perfect opportunity to look at which trends are delivering results and which ones will continue to shape the future of lead generation. Here are the ones we’re continuing to watch.

Mobile-First Lead Generation

The days of mobile being “the poor man’s desktop” are long behind us — even in the B2B world, where prospects spend most of their days in front of a desktop monitor. According to Google, 49 percent of B2B researchers who do product research on their mobile devices do so while they’re on the job.

Make no mistake, B2B users will encounter your lead-gen emails and landing pages on mobile devices when researching purchases. The question is, what kind of experience are you offering them? If your page is not responsive — if pinching and zooming is the only way visitors can read your content — don’t expect them to hang around for long.

In addition to page responsiveness, consider other factors like your content itself, which should be concise and easy to read on a mobile device. Also remember that mobile email clients are constantly updating, so continue to test and update your templates on a regular basis. An email may be the first impression a prospect gets of your brand, so make sure it’s a positive one.

Focused Social Media Marketing

It’s a given that all businesses — both B2B and B2C — need a strong presence on social media if their lead generation efforts are going to succeed. With the number of social networks multiplying, smart B2B marketing teams are focusing their efforts on those that deliver maximum bang for each budgetary buck.

Over the last few years, LinkedIn has made a play to become the hub for business content and networking, and so far it has succeeded. Since opening up its content publication platform, the network has become an important hub for business users seeking insights. And a series of key acquisitions, like lynda.com (education) and SlideShare (interactive presentations), have allowed LinkedIn to add premium functionalities that keep business users coming back.

According to LinkedIn, 66 percent of B2B marketers now rate it as their most effective social media platform.

While it’s a good idea to have diversification in your social media strategy, smart B2B marketing teams focus the bulk of their efforts on networks that deliver the best results. For many B2B brands, LinkedIn tops the list of heavy hitters. Of course, every brand is different, so look at your own results to determine which venues have deserve the top two or three spots on your roster, and make sure most of your efforts focus on those best-in-class performers.

Premium-Quality Content

We’ve long since passed the point where B2B prospects would be willing to say, “Yes, I’d like to be on your mailing list.” To grow your funnel in today’s environment, you have to bait the hook with content… and in 2018, that content had better be top quality.

As more brands have caught on to the benefits of content marketing, the content universe has become an over-crowded, deafeningly noisy space. Five years ago, Velocity Partners’ foreboding presentation Crap: Why The Biggest Threat to Content Marketing Is Content Marketing became a viral sensation, and today many of those warnings have come to pass. In a 2018 follow-up to the groundbreaking post, Velocity’s Doug Kessler writes:

But are we actually ‘buried’ in content? Not really, because we won’t allow ourselves to be buried. We simply get more selective. Buyers are besieged by content offers, but they’re accepting fewer of those offers.

The users you’re targeting aren’t exactly new to the content game — they know quality when they see it (and when they don’t), and they’ll keep clicking around until they find it.

So, what does quality content look like in 2018? Here are a few best practices that are helping top B2B marketing teams to deliver results:

• Use intent data to create hyper-targeted content focused on the precise challenges your prospects are facing today.
• Consider conducting original research and reporting your results in a white paper or interactive slide deck.
• Invest in quality copywriting and design services.
• Incorporate insights from experts outside your organization to expand your thought leadership.
• Do some A/B testing to experiment with different approaches to content titles, lengths, visuals, and other features.
• Offer a unique perspective on a popular topic to set your content apart from your competitors’.

Automation Meets Personalization

Once you add a lead to your funnel, marketing automation allows you to create and execute nurturing campaigns designed to guide them through to conversion — without sacrificing personalization. In 2018, we have advanced automation tools that let you automate a tailored lead engagement process right up to the point where the prospect is ready for a sales outreach call.

For example, B2B marketers can set up their intent data platforms to identify targets through their online activity and feed those leads directly into a marketing automation platform. A new intent-based lead can kick off an automated campaign focused on the topics the person was researching as well as specifics about their organization (size, industry, etc.). The result is an automated stream of communications that are also highly personalized, designed to rise above the noise and guide the prospect to the next step towards conversion.

Strategic Gating

To gate or not to gate? This has been the question that’s challenged B2B marketers since the birth of online content.

If content is to function as a lead generation asset, gating must take place at some point. But in 2018, more B2B marketing teams are looking more closely at what they gate and for whom. Site visitors will be happy to submit their names, email addresses, and other details … if they’re convinced that the content is worth the effort.

Remember, business users are savvy content consumers, and they’re highly protective of their information. They can tell pretty quickly whether a piece of content is worth handing over the goods, so it’s important that B2B marketing teams reserve gating for their top-tier assets.

Also, if an existing prospect comes back to download additional assets, don’t punish them by making them re-enter their contact information. Personalize their experience by welcoming them back to your site and giving them access to your content without the hassle of completing yet another form.

As we look back on the first half of 2018, it’s clear that B2B lead generation continues to march forward, waiting for no one. If your brand is to stay on top of your game, it’s vital to keep up with current trends and to keep an eye out for the next big thing. We’ve presented you with some top trends that are driving B2B marketing teams as we enter the second half of the year, and we encourage you to keep a finger on the pulse of new developments that will continue to reshape and redefine the B2B lead generation landscape.

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