Tim Zheng is the CEO and founder of Apollo.io, an intelligent, data-first sales acceleration platform. Before launching Apollo in 2015, the Massachusetts-born entrepreneur founded, built and sold e-learning platform BrainGenie. Since the company’s founding, as CEO of Apollo.io, Tim is primarily responsible for driving the product, hiring and go-to-market strategy for the company. Before his success as a young entrepreneur, Tim interned at Citadel Investment Group, The Boston Consulting Group and Goldman Sachs. Based in Austin, Zheng graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 2011.
In the digital age, connecting with current and potential customers has never been easier. And yet, the very abundance of online users and content makes it harder to know whom to reach and how to reach them optimally. The question arises, therefore, as to how one can build a solid pipeline of prospective buyers who can then be converted into paying customers. The answer lies in lead generation – one of the core strategies for any B2B company, and one that has evolved considerably over the last few years.
Why a lead generation strategy matters
Traditionally, marketing and sales were two separate departments. Marketing collected data on prospective customers and passed them on to salespeople, who would then do the actual selling. However, the lines are increasingly blurring between the two as lead generation in its modern avatar becomes the norm. Essentially, lead generation is the first stage of the purchasing journey, in which interested customers are located and roped in through persuasive tactics that demonstrate value for the customer. Lead generation is a useful strategy as it focuses on interested candidates from the get-go. Traditional marketing is more general and often reaches people who are not interested in the product. With lead generation, however, the emphasis is on getting only genuine prospects to subscribe to a mailing list or book a consultation. It also enables a more personal initial conversation than with generic content, which most modern buyers are fatigued by. And with modern trends like data mining and predictive analytics, lead generation can anticipate and creatively solve customer needs, which serves to boost customer delight and brand loyalty.
Lead generation strategies to keep in mind for 2022
Lead generation and digitization go hand in hand. Given that most people have an active online presence, it makes sense to target them on the channels and with the media formats they like best. Now that businesses are embracing the digital workforce, therefore, it’s also the perfect time for them to invest in lead generation tech. There are several strategies one can opt for depending on industry/market requirements, resources available, and company priorities. We discuss some of the most popular ones as follows.
- Social selling – This involves using a social network to connect and engage with customers and nudge them towards a conversion. B2B brands tend to experience high success rates with LinkedIn, the preferred platform for professionals across industries. LinkedIn InMail open rates, for instance, are nearly three times as high as that of regular B2B emails. Sales executives should thus prioritize reaching out to LinkedIn prospects – several tools can help with filtering out appropriate profiles and delivering timely message campaigns.
- AI-powered sales – Modern AI can use customer data to pitch products, help out with queries and deliver personalized content. All while being available 24×7. With an AI chatbot on your website, you can easily qualify site visitors with a few automated questions and direct them to the right content for their needs. Moreover, given that modern chatbots can mimic human conversation and have bright, simple layouts, customers will be happy to approach them for queries.
- Remarketing – This is a simple yet powerful way to attract people who have already visited your site or browsed your products, but left without taking any action. It involves using paid ads to remind customers about the products they liked, or simply highlight more features about the company, with the intent of calling back customers and pushing them towards conversion.
- Data-driven marketing – Every customer interaction online generates a host of data points that marketing and sales teams can use to pitch better to both current and existing customers. In particular, AI can process data to deliver predictions about how certain categories of customers are likely to behave. The team can then reach out preemptively to those buyers and fulfill their needs before they even express them, thus amplifying the experience.
- Video marketing – Data shows that about 72% of prospects prefer to receive information over video. Many companies have thus started creating tailored pitch videos for each of the prospects they email, featuring solutions for their specific needs. It’s a more personal form of selling than text-based email and allows the receiver to relate better to the people behind the product.
- Conversational marketing – The days of “selling to” are over. Customers want to know that they can have a relationship with the brand they buy from. Rather than rely solely on lead capture forms, therefore, companies are investing in the creation of conversational marketing teams whose sole focus is to listen to customers and find innovative solutions to their problems. By having someone on hand to reach out to, customers can trust a brand more easily.
- Content marketing – At the core of every good lead-gen strategy is top-notch content that attracts, informs, and persuades. Data from Demand Gen shows that 47% of buyers consume at least three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales team member. Moreover, 96% of B2B customers want more thought leadership content. Companies should invest in creating content that highlights their expertise and dives deep into hot topics, and then use them as lead magnets and lead nurturing tools.
In 2022, technology will power lead generation and customer retention activities in many new ways. The basics of good selling, however, remain the same. Companies need to optimize their website for SEO, list themselves in marketing platforms to attract local customers, create a relevant stream of content, and keep their communications timely. What the strategies listed above can do is refine the communication process to fit tech-savvy buyers who may need more convincing than regular selling tactics can accomplish. Above all, make sure that every customer interaction is consistent with each other and with your overarching brand message. With consistent and thoughtful efforts, you’ll soon have a strong pipeline of prospects who are ready to become your permanent customers.