6 B2B SMB problems and how to fix them - no. 3 Not enough leads - part 1

At Usher & Spur, we've identified six major problems B2B SMBs have. The third problem in our series is "We're not getting enough leads", which is another way of saying that you can't manage to grow your sales. This is a pretty big topic that we've chosen to break down into two more readable parts. Part 1 examines the role of digital marketing and what to consider before bringing an internal resource on board.

In the old days, to draw up a list of new prospects, you might have run an advertising campaign, maybe with a promotional coupon. Or you might have hired a telesales company to do some cold calling for you.

These days, more and more companies are turning to digital marketing experts. With terms like "growth hacking" and "search engine marketing" abounding, businesses are feeling a bit out of their depth, especially B2B SMEs. It's no wonder the idea appeals of a wizard stepping in, waving a wand, and magically conjuring up some leads. Isn't that what digital marketing does? While that may not be a good question, read on for a couple that are.

WILL digital marketing get us leads?

There is a tendency to confine digital marketing and, in the digital world, all marketing to the single objective of generating leads for Sales. Ultimately, all the efforts of a Marketing department are aimed at growing the company, but it is reductive to think only in terms of the number of contact records created and passed on to the Sales department. Digital marketing, however, does have a greater focus on this aspect of your marketing strategy. To understand what digital marketing can do for you, we think it's helpful to first understand what exactly digital marketing is.

Digital marketing is marketing

According to Wikipedia, digital marketing is an "umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies", and includes techniques such as SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing), content marketing, influencer marketing, content automation, data-driven marketing, social media marketing and optimization, email marketing, and display advertising. Unfortunately, if you don't know what those different techniques do, you're not much closer to understanding.

The Financial Times' business lexicon puts it more succinctly, defining digital marketing as "the marketing of products or services using digital channels to reach consumers. The key objective is to promote brands through various forms of digital media." At Usher & Spur, we like this definition that demystifies the whole process. First and foremost, digital marketing is marketing. The basic concepts of marketing remain the same. But this is marketing through different means.

Marketing automation platform Hubspot defines it nicely, emphasizing the key role of strategy in digital marketing in order to obtain leads that are going to result in sales: "If your company is B2B, your digital marketing efforts are likely to be centered around online lead generation, with the end goal being for someone to speak to a salesperson. For that reason, the role of your marketing strategy is to attract and convert the highest quality leads for your salespeople via your website and supporting digital channels." This is marketing that works hand in hand with sales, at least where B2B is concerned. (NB: By "marketing strategy", they mean a campaign plan.)

The short answer, then, is: Yes, digital marketing will get you leads, but they will not necessarily be sales-ready. Nor should they be. To grow, your company needs to attract customers at every stage of the buying decision, and cultivate them to choose your product or service. 

Should we hire a digital marketing manager?

A digital marketing manager's role is operational. His objective is generally to optimize TLC - Traffic / Leads / Conversion with the end goal of increasing sales. Traffic is the number of people who visit your website. Leads are the registered contacts you accumulate. Conversion is the rate at which you get prospects to move to the next stage of the buying decision; in a simple form, the rate at which you convert traffic to leads or leads to sales, for example.

To meet this objective, a digital marketing manager will need to have an understanding of the customer's existing experience "across multiple channels and customer touch points", which means that she must look at all the different ways customers come into digital contact with your company. She must also understand what the customer is looking for, by evaluating customer research, market conditions and competitor data. From there, she can figure out the best points at which the customer can be encouraged to convert. This may mean making changes to your existing website, improving its usability, design and content.

Every change made or conversion tactic put into place is tracked for performance. Sometimes the digital marketing manager will test multiple tactics at once. Results (KPI - key performance indicators) are assessed against pre-established goals (ROI - return on investment calculations), so tactics and plans can be continually refined. The digital marketing manager will report the results and make recommendations continuously.  

Once a plan has been made for the website, the digital marketing manager must find ways of driving traffic to it. This is the development and management of digital marketing campaigns. When people think digital marketing, they often think SEO, and this is one of its most important aspects, with efforts aimed at getting your website higher up in search listings. But campaigns can also be based on advertising or use social media, with the aim of attracting potential customers.

Advertising campaigns are about managing numbers: how much does your company need to spend, or rather, how little can your company spend to attract a given number of leads? The role of the digital marketing manager here is one of planning and budgetary control to optimize spend and performance.

Social media campaigns require a lot more preparation. Before developing a campaign, the digital marketing manager will assess which social media channels your potential customers frequent, whether your company is being followed by the types of people you want to reach, who are the influencers in your industry, what hashtags are the most relevant to you and have the most followers, what types of content are being shared in those channels. This information will help him to develop content and campaigns that may aim to raise brand awareness among influencers, for example, or drive potential customers to the website.

When interest is generated further up the funnel, (i.e. leads are not ready to be passed to Sales), content marketing comes into play. The aim is to provide the potential customer with the information they need to move to the next stage of their decision. This means first creating a lot of content, and then distributing it through blogs, social media, email, and on the website.

As you can see, that's a lot of different areas and a lot of work! That's why digital marketing managers use a lot of technology, and their responsibilities also, therefore, include continually reviewing new technologies to keep your company up-to-date and efficient at digital marketing, as well as managing agencies and partners.

Click here and here to look at some standard digital marketing manager job descriptions.

Do you have the resources to recruit an internal resource?

Considering the above overview of what a digital marketing manager can do for you, here are some questions you will want to ask yourself:

  • Are you prepared to invest in multiple technology tools and outside resources, as well as an internal resource, and what is your budget?
  • Do you have the strategic marketing information that will inform your digital marketing manager's operations?
  • Do you have the managerial framework and competency to align Sales and Marketing?
  • Do you have a clear vision and overall strategy to ensure your digital marketing manager, and your company, does not become lost in the trees?

If the answer to the first question is no, look out for part 2 to find out how a digital marketing agency can help you. If the answer to any of the other questions is no, contact Usher & Spur.

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