Your resource for learning how to attract, nurture, and convert B2B website leads.
If you are looking for a guide on automating inbound lead management, this is not it. In this guide, we share effective tips to create a well-crafted strategy to build rapport with leads. However, if you’re looking to expertly manage and nurture leads to develop long-term client relationships, read on.
What Is an Inbound Lead?
An inbound lead is any website conversion in which a potential client provides you with their contact information. Inbound leads are also called form completions, web leads, or conversions.
Different Types of Inbound Leads
There has been much debate among salespeople and marketers on what an inbound lead looks like:
- Is it someone completing a contact form?
- Downloading a case study?
- Signing up for an email newsletter?
- Engaging in a live chat?
The truth is that when it comes to inbound leads, some are sales-ready, and some require nurturing. However, all conversions from the website must be defined as leads – but how you handle them depends on where they are in the sales process.
Let’s look at inbound leads as part of the sales and marketing funnel.
Top of Funnel (“TOFU” in marketing speak)
Top-of-the-funnel sales leads are passive leads coming from the website. These include visitors who are:
- Signing up for a newsletter
- Downloading a piece of thought leadership content
- Registering for a webinar
These conversions are coming from indirect CTAs on the website. Users are not necessarily directly expressing interest in your product or service but are willing to volunteer contact information to access a piece of content.
Top-of-the-funnel leads must be handled with finesse, but they are still leads! Email newsletter subscribers should only be contacted via the ongoing email newsletter. However, visitors who download content like white papers, guides, resources, etc. should be treated like viable, promising leads. With content downloads, it is important to build a case of credibility through more relevant content. For instance, if a visitor downloads a guide on selecting the right accounting firm, a sales or marketing person should manually follow up with content related to the original content download, such as a blog about accounting best practices or an accounting case study relevant to the prospect’s industry.
Middle of Funnel (MOFU)
Middle-of-the-funnel sales leads demonstrate more buying intent than top-of-the-funnel. These leads are website conversions like a case study download, video demo request, etc. These conversions may not be ready for a direct sales conversation just yet, but they are close and should be treated as serious leads.
The best way to follow up with a case study download is not to go right “for the jugular” and request a call.
Instead, follow up with additional content that makes sense for the prospect’s industry. Send along relevant blogs, industry-specific project examples, etc. Do not request a call right away. Send at least two more emails before requesting a call—unless the recipient requests one.
Bottom of Funnel (BOFU)
Believe it or not, we have trouble convincing salespeople these leads are worthwhile. The bottom of the funnel website leads are website visitors directly requesting a consultation, phone call, office visit, etc.
These leads are superior to most other leads because an inbound lead does not require convincing that they need your product or service— they already know and want to be sold!
Treat each bottom-of-the-funnel inbound lead like it’s your last and only opportunity.
This type of thinking ensures you are aggressive, attentive, and creative in approaching that prospect’s needs and objectives. Qualify them upfront on budget, timeline, expectations, etc., but don’t make the experience too qualifying and prohibitive. As you qualify, build value at every touchpoint with things like thought leadership content, sample work, testimonials, references, etc.
Inbound Lead Management Best Practices
Even if you know how your inbound leads are being handled, it’s good to regularly check in with your sales team regarding the lead management process. Below are a few best practices for managing leads.
Establish a Process
Establishing a process is essential before your first lead ever comes to your website and completes a form or calls your office. For all leads, determine:
- How to answer the phone or contact form
- A sales script with FAQs and answers
- Who on your team will be assigned the lead
- Internal roles and responsibilities
- Lead tracking tools
Inbound sales leads should go to a senior team member – a sales manager is best. If your sales team is new or junior, having all the other items on the list is essential to ensure every website lead is appropriately handled. For websites that are primarily lead generation tools, it’s best to have the primary phone number on your site connect directly to the sales department. This will ensure maximum lead conversion and create a great first impression of your company.
Qualify Your Leads
Ensuring incoming leads fit your general customer persona is important. When you look at the leads, consider the following:
- Are they in the right industry (or industries)?
- Are they in the position/title you are targeting?
- Do they need your product or service?
- Do they have a budget for your product or services?
- Do they have realistic expectations for your product or service?
If the majority of your inbound leads aren’t anywhere close to your target market, you must review your inbound marketing strategy and tactics. It could be that your messaging, targeting, or SEO keyword strategy is off.
Respond to Leads Promptly
All website leads MUST be followed up in a timely manner. For some B2B companies, the sales team is expected to contact the prospect within 30 minutes. However, at minimum, responding to a prospect within the hour is important.
Follow Up with Any Leads that Go Silent
Lead nurturing includes actively following up with leads, even the ones that go silent. If a prospect reaches out to your company, they are interested. Your team must have an established strategy that can be personalized to each prospect.
For B2B firms, we don’t believe in automated lead nurturing – it often seems fake, impersonal, and off-target. Personalizing your follow-up to each prospect and their needs is an effective way to bring people out of the “silent email” zone.
Continue Nurturing Until You Get to a No
Every inbound lead should eventually arrive at a clear conclusion. Continued lead nurturing is crucial until you get to a “no.” If a prospect doesn’t go with another vendor or partner, they may still be interested or considering your services or products. In fact, there could be myriad reasons they haven’t arrived at a hard “no” yet with you.
In some instances, lead nurturing can take a while – so getting to a “no” may not happen for a long time. That means while the lead is still alive and hasn’t gone with a competitor, keep nurturing.
Close the Loop on Leads
Feedback on leads cannot be anecdotal. Anecdotal data is rarely, if ever, correct. We recommend B2B marketers not only track leads and the source of the leads but also closely track what happens to those leads during the sales process. It’s surprising how many “so-so” leads turn out to be great deals or how many leads that look great on paper don’t close.
Common Reasons Inbound Leads Don’t Convert to Sales
They aren’t considered valuable.
When marketing is the only department that values inbound leads, the lead management will 100% fail. Leadership and the sales team must understand what an inbound lead is and how valuable leads are to the company.
The response time is slow.
If your response time during business hours is over an hour, you’ve lost the deal to your competition. Responding quickly shows the prospect you value their business and their time.
The salesperson doesn’t position themselves as the expert.
Prospects want to be led. They are looking to hire you as an expert, so be the leader of the process immediately. Be specific about the next steps and provide thought leadership resources to continue building credibility. This will give prospects peace of mind to commit to your firm over the competition.
The salesperson disqualifies a lead because they aren’t open-minded.
Balance qualifying with open-mindedness to new types of engagements. Too often, salespeople need to be more flexible about what their firm does and what a project looks like. As salespeople, adjusting to new types of engagements suggested by a prospective client is critical. Do not dismiss all new ideas immediately.
Paralysis by analysis.
Analytics, statistics, scoring, etc., are good but only in moderation. It is much more important to be responsive to leads. Too many companies spend too much time lead scoring and not enough time on creative ways to build a relationship with a prospect.
There is no clear nurturing strategy.
Most leads from a website are not sales-ready and, therefore, require some lead nurturing with regular communication and content marketing. Make sure your company has a regular email newsletter and ad retargeting. This type of nurturing ensures your company is not forgotten about when it’s time for the prospect to send the RFP.
Creating Content to Close Deals
How to leverage content for nurturing leads through the B2B buying process.
Content marketing is an ideal companion to a B2B sales team. Why?
The inherent nature of the B2B sales process (a longer sales cycle, smaller potential client pool, higher priced purchases, and multiple decision makers) requires various touchpoints with a prospective client.
The traditional B2B “sales funnel” is evolving from a predictable linear model to a much more diverse and jumbled path – requiring marketers to consistently remind prospective clients of a B2B brand through relevant, new content across various platforms.
So, if you’re not modifying your content to fit a buyer’s needs in each stage, it’s time to get started! Here’s how to address common obstacles in the B2B sales process, how content can solve them, and how to measure your outcomes.
Lead Conversion Path
The lead conversion path takes a prospect on a journey toward becoming a new client. By understanding the process and meeting the needs of each prospect at every stage along the way, you can successfully lead them to your desired outcome: conversion.
The potential client is learning about the products or services you offer. This is an opportunity for education about your company and your competition.
Tactics: Buying Guide, Newsletter
The potential client is learning about the products or services you offer. This is an opportunity for education about your company and your competition.
Tactics: Before & Afters, Project Proposal, Case Study
It’s time to close the deal. At this point, you feel confident the prospect will engage with your company and everything you provide them is personalized.
Tactics: Project Schedule, Service Agreement, Payment Terms
Finally, you must gauge the effectiveness of your conversion process. At this time, you must review, reflect, evaluate, and retain.
Tactics: FAQs, Blogs, White Papers
Attracting web visitors and transforming them into qualified prospects is the first step in a B2B sales process. These customers are conducting a web search, gathering preliminary information, and sourcing referrals from trusted sources. Most importantly, they’re trying to find a business they can trust. Helpful content that addresses their need will nurture the relationship much more than pushy, fluffy sales talk.How content helps during discovery:
- Begins building the relationship with a salesperson
- Positions the business as a trusted source
- Better educates (and qualifies) a prospect
Obstacles During Discovery
When beginning their preliminary search, it’s common for a prospect to approach your sales team with skepticism. Doubt stems from various circumstances, such as confusion with your service delivery or perhaps a past poor experience with business in your industry. Content can help mitigate doubt by establishing credibility and initial trust with the prospect.
Content marketing that defeats doubt can include:
- Third-party validation of your firm (e.g., endorsements from thought leaders, positive media coverage)
- Social media clout
- Third-party articles about your industry, process, etc.
- Your company’s portfolio
- Industry client list
- Client testimonials
Price and Budget
B2B services are often high-ticket items. Think of software, engineering, medical, and consulting services. All typically involve relatively high prices and long-term contracts –as well as little industry transparency – compared to B2C. Meaning there will be prospective clients with unrealistic budgets and sticker shock. Instead of immediately disqualifying, content can help re-evaluate price requirements, build your firm’s value, and nudge the prospect back into the sales funnel.
Content that can address price concerns include:
- Tip lists
- Service delivery breakdown
- Introductory videos
Depending on your industry, prospective clients may have never heard of your service or business. A salesperson should be well-equipped with content that educates a prospective client. This allows the salesperson to alert prospective clients of new challenges and realize they might not have considered initially.
Content that supports client education:
- Free white papers and “State of the Industry” reports
During the consideration phase, a qualified lead recognizes your business as a potential partner and understands your unique value proposition. They’re most likely comparing you to competitors and have a clearer picture of their project needs. Recycling the same content from the discovery phase is a bad idea. These qualified leads want to engage with a B2B firm and, in return, receive answers and personalized attention.
Content helps the consideration phase by:
- Outlining your unique value proposition vs. your competition
- Deeper education about your specific services and need for tailoring
- The prospect can picture future success with your business
Obstacles During Consideration
At this point, a prospect is closer to deciding but will start prolonging the sales process. This could be for various reasons: the prospect may have other higher-priority projects/needs, they’re awaiting team feedback, or there is still lingering doubt and questions from the discovery phase. While discovery content casts the widest net, the consideration content should mitigate the risk of losing prospects still along for the ride.
Content to aid indecision includes:
- Demo videos
- Service delivery guides
Sometimes, the prospective client is stretched very thin in time and resources. Additionally, depending on your target industry, a prospect may need buy-in from senior leadership and may not have the time or required skills to sell your firm internally. Your content should succinctly describe your service within the confines of their needs – saving your prospect time and energy when they discuss your services internally. Most importantly, your content should make your prospect’s job easier when trying to gain their team’s buy-in.
Content that improves disorganization can be:
- Competition comparison
- Analysis reports
- White papers
Finally, many prospects from the discovery stage have reached the decision stage. Remember, even if a lead is ready to buy, you should continue to build your business case for credibility through content before moving to a proposal.
Content supports the decision stage by:
- Instilling trust and credibility
- Providing essential data needed for internal buy-in
- Closing the sale
Obstacles During Decision
Multiple Decision Makers
As stated before, your primary point of contact often isn’t the only person making the final decision. Senior-level colleagues also weigh in. This is an excellent opportunity to gain brand recognition and build trust deeper within the company – but you also risk failing to drive consensus. One naysayer in the group can derail the whole project, so it’s best to keep content on hand that can quickly overcome any hesitations.
Content that brings the group together includes:
- Process tips and sheets
- Before & After stories
- Competitor comparison sheets
- Phone calls with teams
- Special demos
- Team bios
Misalignment of Goals
It’s easy to assume that by the time a prospect reaches the decision phase their objectives are thoroughly understood and mapped out within the service agreement. But sometimes perceptions change since the initial sales discussion and new needs present themselves. This could be due to miscommunication on the client end, internal changes within the company or industry changes.
Content to address last-minute goal setting are:
- Service agreements
- Personalized slideshows
- Case studies
Similar to client education during the discovery phase, sometimes your point of contact lacks experience with the types of services your company provides. An inexperienced client may not be involved in the actual delivery of the service, but must still communicate your business and benefits to their team.
Content that helps client inexperience includes:
- Guides geared toward their sphere of influence
- Pricing information
A salesperson’s initial goal is landing a sale, but turning a client into a long-term advocate sweetens the deal. Money spent now – and associated tangible results – significantly impact that prospect’s job review, internal recognition, and future budget. Therefore, your content must drill home the advantages of working with your company.
Content that relieves buyer’s remorse:
- Ongoing educational webinars
- Podcast interviews
- In-person events and speaker opportunities
You have your buyer personas and your content strategy in hand, but are wondering if the content is actually helping reach sales and marketing objectives? No need to fear, here are four simple metrics (two for sales, two for marketing) you should be measuring.
Marketing: Web Analytics
The bulk of your content will be digital and hosted on your website. This means using Google Analytics or a similar tool to measure content engagement.
Here are some metrics to review:
- Time spent on site (more time spent on your website = a more interested customer)
- Pages per session (more pages browsed in one visit = a more educated customer)
Marketing: Social Media
If your business is active on social media, discover what content receives the most shares and clicks on each platform. These metrics should not be observed in a vacuum, as evidence shows that social shares don’t always indicate high readership.
Instead, pull the following:
- Referral traffic (based on platform) combined with web analytics
Sales: Leads Generated
This requires big-picture thinking and wrangling multiple platforms. It becomes even more complicated if you’re a B2B business that still conducts most sales over the phone. But, as stated above, measurement becomes easier if most of your content is digital.
If you have important calls to action (CTAs) on your website that you want an individual to make – such as signing up for a newsletter, downloading a guide, or completing a contact form – then track these conversions by setting up Google Analytics Conversions or Events.
Sales: Length of Sales Cycle
A B2B sales cycle can often take weeks – or even months – to close. Keep the lines of communication open with your sales team and provide them with relevant content along the way. To help, ask your sales team some of the following questions:
- Is the content attracting the wrong type of prospect (e.g., seeking different services, needing additional education, etc.)?
- Are there common misconceptions of our business among prospects (e.g., understanding of unique value proposition, service delivery, or other)?
- What common questions are prospects asking that they need support answering?
Start with Content that Converts
Nothing is more annoying than a person or company who rambles on about themselves. Most people are naturally drawn to companies and people who focus on their audience by:
- Providing solutions
- Discussing needs
- Sharing information
- Explaining how to do something
- Providing tips for being more successful at a task
A major mistake is treating content marketing as an opportunity to discuss only services and products rather than creating content that matters to and engages the audience.
Many people must remember this fact when creating conversion-focused content marketing pieces for their company. Content that provides helpful, insightful, or educational information improves conversions of potential leads into new clients.
Let’s take a quick look at the different types of content you can create to convert website visitors into new clients.
White Papers: Industry-Specific Information
A white paper is one of the most in-demand types of content for business-to-business industries. White papers typically provide solutions to industry-related challenges. The format of white papers varies. Some are structured with a statistical format that relies on anonymous data, some include specific examinations of client projects, and others explore broader explanations that include a problem-solution-explanation format.
White papers are an excellent aid for conversion because they are a strong trade opportunity. A B2B firm that invests time, resources, and effort into creating a specific content piece can expect to trade that content piece for a potential client’s email address. Potential clients willingly trade their treasured email address for a content piece when it contains highly relevant data that helps them do their jobs better, save money, and/or maximize resources.
Case Studies: Proof You Get Results
Selling is difficult when you lack proof to support your claims about what your products or services can achieve. Creating case studies from client stories is the best way to prove your firm’s products or services work. Case studies are effective in converting potential clients into new clients because they validate your statements.
All case studies must include measurable results. For example, at Bop Design, we constantly rely on metrics like website traffic, forms completed, and new client leads to evaluate results and performance. Provide quantifiable, trackable metrics to ensure your case studies are accurate and influential.
Before & Afters: All the Possibilities!
It’s true that “Before & Afters” are a way to show off your work while reinforcing the message that your products and services are fantastic. These are more than an opportunity to show off, though. These content pieces entice potential clients to think of “what can be” and give potential clients a sense of the endless possibilities that accompany working with your firm.
Create “Before & Afters” from your top-tier client projects. Include excellent images and clearly describe how your company added value for your client. For maximum impact, highlight your client’s expectations and how you exceeded them.
eBook: Educational Resources
When done properly, eBooks reinforce your authority and establish you as an expert. An eBook should cover a topic relevant to your client, address pain points, help solve a problem, or explain how to complete a task or project. Companies often complain they are giving away their expertise in an eBook. We always tell them: that’s the point! Unless you have patented a new process or product, it’s likely your competitors also have similar expertise – but your company has the confidence (and generosity) to share information willingly.
Drafting an educational and useful eBook sets you apart from your competitors who think they must hoard information to stay in business. It tells potential clients you are an authority on the topic and an expert in your field. It also shows you are the right company to work with since you will educate them throughout the process.
FAQs: Your Questions Answered
Every B2B firm, whether in software, medical devices, accounting, consulting, or another field, gets asked a particular set of questions regularly. Typical questions cover cost, schedule, resources, goals, process, roles, responsibilities, end results, what to expect, etc. Answering these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) directly and concisely – and turning that into a piece of content you give away on your website, in sales calls, or via email – tells a potential client you understand them. You know their pain points, reservations, and concerns.
It seems simple, but a clearly drafted FAQ saves you time and builds trust with your potential client. Trust is essential to converting a potential client into a long-term client.
Know Your Audience
You know your products and services inside out. But how well do you know your audience? By clearly understanding your ideal client, what drives them, their pain points, and what they need help with, you can create excellent content that moves them from a potential client to a new client. Understanding their needs and creating content that fills those needs enables you to increase your conversions.
Conversions Are Easy with Great Content
By following these steps to create content that converts, you can make the entire lead conversion process easier for your sales team. Content focused on conversions addresses pain points, educates prospects, and leads them down the funnel. This type of content prepares your lead for conversion. So, what’s next?
Your Website & Your Staff: A Winning Combo
With all the effort we pour into generating leads on a website, we often need to remember that content marketing never exists in a vacuum. It’s easy to overlook how instrumental you and your staff are in transforming website leads into new clients. The best way to convert leads is to combine the efforts of your website and your internal team to maximize all potential client opportunities. Combining digital marketing efforts and human resources is a winning combo.
To continually attract new leads and visitors to your B2B website, you or your staff must keep content current, engaging, and exciting by adding recent blog posts, making edits to pages, and creating new, valuable content pieces.
Easy Tip #1:
Create a blogging schedule with two to four topics per month. Assign dates and team members to blog posts to ensure you maintain a steady stream of content to add to the website.
There are various ways to convince website visitors and potential customers about the value of your products or services. Case studies, white papers, web pages, customer testimonials, etc., are all excellent components of an effective B2B web design that convince potential customers about the value of your services or products. A robust digital presence and a responsive, helpful staff are essential to your company’s credibility.
Easy Tip #2:
Prioritize responses to website forms, social media engagements, content fulfillment, and emails to potential customers. A quick, helpful response shows new website visitors that your company is easy to work with, engaged, and has excellent customer service.
Your B2B website can’t convert a customer by itself. Typically, a website is a lead generation tool, and you or your staff are the lead conversion experts. Don’t forget about the website leads that phone your business (these are still website leads that need to be converted). Every interaction (phone, email, and in-person) with a potential client should contribute to converting the lead.
Easy Tip #3:
Send calls to a great salesperson or train your staff to answer questions and get a customer to commit to a consultation or appointment. Answering questions with a simple yes, no, or uncertain answer will always work against a conversion.
The key to long-term success for many B2B firms is repeat business or customer retention. When it comes to retention, you and your staff are the most effective companions to a strong website. Once a sale is made, customer retention efforts begin. Excellent customer service, follow-through, and delivering a great product/service should be the foundation of your retention efforts.
Easy Tip #4:
Educate your staff about all the features and information on your B2B website. Your team can send existing clients links to helpful information on the website.
Digital marketing is crucial in today’s B2B marketplace. However, in focusing on maximizing a solid online presence, we can overlook the importance of our human resources. By focusing on the strengths of both digital marketing and building relationships, you can create a powerful, successful brand.
Lead conversion is a continuous process that should be continuously fine-tuned and improved. Check out the Bop Blog for more tips and resources on lead conversion, or contact us today to discuss what we can do for your company.
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