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Inbound marketing costs 61% less and generates twice the number of leads, than its outbound marketing counterpart.
It’s statistics like these that highlight the importance of where and how you acquire clients. Whether your business depends on thousands of sales to survive, or one big contract for the year, your approach to how people journey towards your business to become a customer plays a key role.
Given the variety of business types, this journey changes depending on what objectives and structure your company has. Business to consumer (B2C) and consumer to consumer (C2C) businesses, generally speaking, have much shorter and streamlined client acquisition processes. Consumers learn about the company or individual,and decide whether they want or need that particular product or service. It’s with business to business (B2B) organizations, however, where the effort to win new clients can become a longer pursuit.
When we think about the digitization of business processes, the landscape of client acquisition has been flipped upside down. Gone are the days where your main customers see your business on a billboard, and call you to schedule a meeting. Influencer marketing, guest articles, and online interviews all contribute to building brand awareness, user engagement and eventual conversion. And we haven’t even got started on SEO.
Whether you’re a new startup, or an established company, being savvy to industry changes and technological advancements keeps you in the loop with how best to push your target businesses into your purchase funnel.
But, let’s be honest here. The issue of client acquisition is an absolute monster of a topic. Knowing where to start with a client acquisition strategy that allows your marketing, sales and client service departments to come together seamlessly feels like an impossible feat.
So, how can you become a king of B2B client acquisition?
With some killer digital PR.
We’ve taken the time to go through the in’s and out’s of the client journey, how to make this ride as smooth as possible, and how digital PR can be your secret weapon to guiding people into the loving arms of your sales team.
In this guide, we cover:
Let’s get started.
B2B Client acquisition is the process a business goes through to reach prospects’ (other businesses’) attention, fostering their engagement, and converting them as clients. Those three stages are what we commonly know as the purchase funnel.
It’s common that the methods used to push people into and through the purchase funnel are misconceived as marketing methods. While marketing can be a useful tool for how you sell your product, a comprehensive digital PR strategy is what grows business’ digital footprints, and proves their value and credibility.
We’ll get into this in more detail later on. For now, let’s look at how digital PR actually develops B2B client acquisition.
To put it simply, a digital PR strategy is the foundation by which a business builds relationships with its target audience. Not only does it build brand awareness – it shapes how the public perceives and interacts with your business online.
How does this fit into B2B client acquisition?
Well, it informs every step of the process between someone noticing your company and that person converting as a customer.
Digital PR is the language that communicates the proof of trust, value and credibility to a business’ prospective clients, without ever explicitly saying those words. Good digital PR is done subtly, and ultimately convinces individuals to pay for one service over another, or buy one product over a similar alternative.
We’ll come back to this later.
A purchase funnel models the journey your prospect makes from having no affiliation with your brand to becoming a loyal customer. Part of digital PR’s job is to optimize this funnel and guide people through it as effectively as possible.
Generally speaking, there are 3 main stages of a B2B purchase funnel:
These three components use different digital PR tactics to push people from one stage of the funnel to the next. Additionally, the bottom funnel bridges into the sales process, the final step before signing a new customer.
Your purchase funnel is crucial to your business’ understanding of how you gained a prospect in the first place, and also acts as a key tool for organizing your entire digital PR strategy. If you use a purchase funnel to advise which digital PR tactics to use in a specific moment, your company already has the wireframe for how it acquires new business. Moreover, it highlights content or value gaps that could cause prospects to slip out of your funnel.
When building a client acquisition strategy, the best practice is to map out the different avenues to procure new business.
Primarily speaking, there are 5 main sources bringing in B2B clients online:
1) Content marketing
Content marketing involves producing quality in-house media. This can be anything from blogs, webinars, podcasts, white papers, or ebooks. Content marketing is vital to generating organic leads that can then be converted into clients by a sales representative. It also helps you communicate the value you can provide to prospects, and that you are truly a leader in your space.
2) Digital advertising
Digitally targeted ads are the perfect resource for generating new prospects. With some prudent keyword research, you can find out what your prospects are searching for online, and then bid on those words to appear on top of Google searches.
A thought-through digital ads campaign not only increases your business’ online exposure, but drives your target audience straight to your site, raising convertibility of the traffic coming onto the site.
3) Social Media
Social media helps form your brand image, and amplifies your company message across a range of platforms. Businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on using social media to interact with other businesses, sharing engaging content, and building community – including calling out good and bad customer experiences.
You need to be where your leads are. But know that every platform requires a distinct content strategy. Make sure to tailor your content accordingly, with the ultimate unifier being your brand voice.
4). Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the bedrock of any successful business’ online presence. From the tippy top to the very bottom of the purchase funnel, SEO improves every single aspect of the content your business creates and shares.
If your site drives SEO to its full potential, you can generate a higher number of quality backlinks, which in turn increases your business’ site’s domain authority (DA) score. All this contributes to your site appearing higher in Google search results. The more time you invest in SEO, the greater the number of prospects you’ll have the chance to sell to.
5). Outbound lead generation
Finally, outbound lead generation can be a trickier task, given its direct nature. Outbound lead generation involves reaching out to people who best match your buyer persona, either now or in the future.
The trouble with outbound lead generation is that people are more likely to respond negatively. In fact, only 18% of marketers believe outbound practices provide high-quality leads. Unlike the art of seduction that digital PR is so well versed in, outbound marketing requires more aggressive tactics, making it harder to generate responses from prospects.
Nevertheless, when done in good taste, outbound prospecting can be an effective solution to bolstering leads and selling opportunities.
Awareness sits right at the top of the funnel (TOFU). It’s the first step in client acquisition, and arguably the most important, as it’s usually prospects’ first impression of your business.
A comprehensive B2B client acquisition strategy that uses digital PR spreads brand awareness across all its online channels with a healthy mixture of paid, earned, shared, and owned media.
Good quality TOFU content will encourage site users and social media followers to engage with other pieces of your business’ content and brings them into the purchase funnel.
Notably, TOFU content shouldn’t be gated. Better said, prospects at this stage of the funnel won’t give their personal information to interact with what you’ve produced. Putting this type of content behind a wall with a call to action, or required email subscription, won’t aid your pursuit of acquiring new business.
Here’s a range of popular TOFU tactics that are effective for enhancing the online awareness of your business.
Measuring the return of investment on a TOFU tactic might seem redundant, as its links to client acquisition are indirect. Nonetheless, your business needs to know which tactic is worth doing.
TOFU metrics are good indicators of the number of qualified prospects your business will likely receive, and how people are responding to the content your business is putting out. Here are some of the key TOFU metrics you should analyze when considering the success of your tactics:
Interest represents the middle of the funnel (MOFU) prospects. These people have begun to meaningfully engage with your brand, and have shown some level of engagement with your company’s product, service, or mission.
MOFU is an important stage in B2B client acquisition, as not only is the content produced more transactional, it’s where you secure user’s information for your business’ prospect database.
Offering solutions to the pain points your prospect faces with their own company, in the form of a downloadable resource or email signup, allows you to effectively gather prospect data. With this information, you can warm these leads up by emailing them special offers, free resources, or cool events that they can attend. Remember, it’s all about giving value.
Conversion represents the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), where your prospect is now ready to take the plunge and (hopefully) become a client. These prospects are warm, and are ready to consider doing business with your company.
As the name suggests, the conversion stage (BOFU) is the beginning of the finish line before acquiring new business.
At this point, you’ve demonstrated elements of your company’s credibility, but now you need to foster trust and value. If the prospect sees both of these in your product, and a bit of why you’re better than your competitors, they’ll be ready to talk about doing business.
Here are some BOFU tactics that are great for converting prospects in your database into sellable opportunities.
The sales process is an extension of the purchase funnel. The timeline for sales is typically much shorter than when generating organic leads through a digital PR strategy. Yet, there are some important things to consider before, during, and after speaking to prospects.
The sale hasn’t been made yet, and without the sales process, client acquisition doesn’t exist.
This is the first step to organizing you and your sales team before pitching your product or service to a prospect. It’s also a unique opportunity to both present yourself and get a better understanding of your prospect’s needs.
Clearly layout – in a presentation or in writing – what makes your product special, and how it is an integral piece to improving a business’ way of working.
After this, consider how you’re going to adapt the product’s function to suit the needs of the prospect.
To maintain control of the sales call, prepare some questions which have positive answers and keep the conversation steered in the right direction. Remember, this is not about overwhelming your prospects – so make sure to listen too.
The differences between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL) are fairly simple. A MQL is a prospect that’s willing to give their personal information to your business, and therefore, has a developed interest in your business. However this prospect is not yet ready to enter the buying process. Those people are SQLs.
Why does this distinction matter?
It’s important to gauge whether prospects preparing to have a call with your sales team have any chance of converting into new business. If you have a high volume of unsuccessful calls, this is mostly explained by MQLs mistakenly signing up for sales calls. If that happens, take a step back to reintegrate them into the right stage of the purchase funnel. Chances are, they will still need some nurturing first.
Researching your prospect prior to speaking with them gives you the best chance of understanding their business’ situation, potential issues that they may be having, and how your business can solve those issues.
Additionally, researching your prospect allows you to prepare responses to doubts or objections that may get raised during the call. In many cases, this is the way a wavering prospect is convinced to sign up for a product or contract.
When it comes to the art of the pitch, you need to prove trust and value at each stage. There are four fundamental components to a successful sales call.
Sales representative – A quality sales representative knows how to retain a prospect’s interest in your business’ product. They not only demonstrate knowledge of their own product but the prospect’s industry, remain professionally persistent to close the sale, and are great at building connections.
It’s often the case that the sales representative, and not the product itself, pushes the prospect to become a client. This explains why almost $1 trillion is spent on sales teams every year.
Knowledge of Company – With a good sales representative, you can demonstrate to your prospective client that you care about their company. This goes back to researching your prospect, and shows you’ve taken the time to get to know what their business is all about.
If you fail to look into your prospect’s line of work, they’ll see straight through any attempt to feign knowledge of their product or service, and immediately lose interest in doing business with you. Prospects want to know that if they become your client, they’ll be treated with outstanding service. Not doing your homework can look unprofessional and cost you sales.
Knowledge of Industry – If you establish a good awareness of your prospect’s business, the next step to converting them as a customer is to demonstrate your knowledge of their industry. Highlighting useful insights about specific challenges to companies in your prospect’s industry, and how your product or service can overcome them, is an effective way to get their attention.
The product or package – Finally, your prospect has to be won over by the quality and value of your product or service. It’s likely that at this point, you’ll get some objections about how a competitor’s product is cheaper or has extra features that yours doesn’t.
If you know your product well, you can control the narrative by bringing it back to how your product directly addresses the prospect’s pain points, and guiding them through how you can facilitate the solution better than the rest.
I know. This guide’s all about client acquisition. Client retention’s a whole other ballgame right?
Well, sort of. Client retention is the next step in the journey once you’ve signed new business. And it’s certainly not an insignificant one. In fact, it’s 5 times cheaper to retain an existing client than it is to sign a new one. It follows, therefore, that the relationship you build with those prospects who become clients must be on sure-footing before handing them off to an account manager.
As a business, you want your clients to remain your clients for as long as possible, while building on this with new business. It’s important that when striving to do both these activities, you don’t neglect one for the other. Remember also, that effective client retention can lead to more prospects from a client’s recommendation.
62% of B2B buyers make their purchase decisions based solely on digital content.Even though B2B client acquisition can feel like a laborious process, statistics like this highlight how digital PR is pivotal to gaining new business.
Client acquisition is the beating heart of any B2B company. The process of acquiring customers though, is not just about winning the business of any old company. The true worth of a quality client acquisition strategy lies in the number of good customers you can attract, who stay loyal and even advocate for you to their partners.
Don’t think of client acquisition as a one-way stream. Think of it as a cycle that constantly generates bigger and better clients, growing your business to new heights. Give your clients the tools to succeed with an awesome product, and prove this with some effective PR, and they’ll be sure to repay you the favor.
The Loudspeaker is your definitive guide on how to scale your startup. Brought to you by Publicize, this podcast explores the ins and outs of growing your brand and taking your product to market.
Each month, our expert guests bring you insights, advice, and the latest need-to-know trends from the intersection of marketing, PR and technology.
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