Uncovering Buying Intent To Win More New Business | Episode 55

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With just 5% or less of B2B buyers in the market to buy at any given time, marketers need to get creative to drive leads and meet revenue goals.

Your middle- and bottom-of-funnel prospects are the most likely audiences to have buying intent. Check out this episode for ideas on how to zero in on these prospects with informative content, nurture campaigns, targeted digital ads and more.

Hear why marketers need a balanced strategy of short-term tactics that drive, and nurture leads with long-term brand-building that raises awareness with the other 95% of your total addressable market—your future buyers.

00:20 The challenges of reaching prospects in the high-tech industry
04:24 Why it’s important to balance short- and long-term strategies to meet revenue targets
09:06 Leverage content that attracts high-intent buyers
15:50 How to use intent data technology to identify companies that may be in market for specific solutions
18:25 Using nurture campaigns to identify buying intent
19:51 Digital advertising and retargeting that drives engagement
22:31 Why you need to establish credibility and trust before expecting prospects to engage
24:21 Balancing short-term lead tactics with a long-term marketing strategy

(00:00:01) – Hey, everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You’re listening to Demand Gen Fix, the podcast where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation, and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in the HR tech industry.

(00:00:20) – Hi there, we’re back for another episode and this time Greg and I are talking about uncovering buying intent to win more new business. The vast majority of your total addressable market is not actually in market to buy right now, so you’ve got to get creative to drive leads because you’ve still got to meet your revenue targets. And I know for a lot of organizations in the HR tech space, the last year to year and a half hasn’t been quite what we all had hoped it would be as far as business growth and hitting revenue targets. So, if that is a challenge that you’re currently facing, we’re going to talk about some ways to try to uncover more leads that have actual buying intent, but first, Greg, let’s talk about the challenges.

(00:01:07) – I mean, the reality is the odds are stacked against companies when they’re prospecting, right? Like, marketing and sales is not an easy game.

(00:01:15) – Even in a good year, right? In a regular year, the research shows that only 5% of your total addressable market is actually in market to buy. Even at your best, you’ve only got 5% people out there that are ready to do anything. And then when it gets worse, it gets even smaller, right? During tough economic times, companies obviously pull back on spending, so that 5% could drop down to 1% of your addressable market. So, it’s not a lot of, not a lot of fruit to be plucked from the trees necessarily.

(00:01:45) – That is so true, and I think a lot of organizations, as they’re doing marketing, they’re focusing on we need to uncover these leads that have buying intent. Sometimes they lose sight of the fact that, hey, most companies aren’t in market right now, and if you’re one of those organizations that has looked at it and said, let’s put together the list of companies we want to target, I mean, we’ve all done that, but you have to approach it from the perspective of just because they’re on your list does not mean they’re ready to buy, or that there’s any kind of buying intent right now.

(00:02:18) – So, you have to design programs around that, right? We’ve talked about it many times on the show, so if you’ve listened to us before, these aren’t new statistics, but 75% of B2B buyers would prefer to have zero interaction with the sales rep during the purchase process. And so, it’s no wonder that 70% of sales reps, according to Gartner Research, cite access to stakeholders as their top sales challenge.

(00:02:44) – They don’t want to talk to salespeople. That makes it really hard for salespeople to talk to them, right? Sounds ridiculous to say, but it’s true.

(00:02:52) – It is true, and yet a lot of times they’re told you have to make so many calls a day; you have to do so many outreach. And it’s not for lack of trying for a lot of sales reps. They’re making those outreach, and it’s just the buyer is much harder to engage than they’ve been in the past, for sure.

(00:03:09) – Yeah, research from role works states 83% find it more difficult to engage with the entire buying committee, or 89% of marketers and sellers say that quality leads are harder than ever to come by. What everybody’s feeling, iIt’s not just, oh, it’s something’s wrong with me or something’s wrong with us, or like, that’s just the nature of business now and the nature of buying and selling, unfortunately.

(00:03:34) – It is, and I think a lot of organizations, like when I talk to leaders of the company, and they say, okay, we’re not hitting our girls targets, we’re not hitting our revenue goals. And it’s very frustrating, and it feels like everyone else in the market, you see their posts on LinkedIn, you see them at the shows, it seems like they’re thriving, and it’s just us. Well, I can tell you if you’re feeling that way, you’re not alone. There actually are a lot of companies in the HR tech space that have felt the impact of a tougher economic climate these last couple of years. There are fewer companies that are really crushing it the last year, year and a half, compared to those that are surviving. They’re getting along, they’re doing all right, but they’re not where they wanted to be.

(00:04:24) – Let’s talk about how we can help plant some seeds for the future. What can we do? What can we do in the short term, really? Obviously, everybody needs leads now. So let’s talk about what we can do, or what you could do; some ideas to make that happen.

(00:04:41) – Yes, let’s talk about it. Of course, we’re not recommending you ignore the other 95% of your total addressable audience to throw all of your efforts to find leads now. It is important to balance long term and short term needs. And truthfully, like, if you’re ever going to get out of the cycle of the we need leads now, you know that panic cycle, it’s a merry-go-round that’s hard to get off, unless you also are focusing on the long term game from a marketing standpoint, because you’ve got to build that brand awareness, credibility and trust with them, especially with the way B2B buyers are making purchase decisions now and engaging with sales reps much, much later in their purchase decision process. But we get that the struggle is real and immediate, and if you are chasing the aggressive growth goal, or falling behind on revenue targets, you do need to do something, right?

(00:05:38) – And so, you’ve got to find ways to uncover the low hanging fruit, and those are the prospects who are actually in market to make a purchase. I would say, it’s really about looking at campaigns that are focused on middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel, and we’ll walk through what things to think about from a funnel standpoint, what stage they’re at, what kind of content they’re more likely to be interested in those stages. And then we’ll finish up this conversation talking about a few ideas of marketing programs you can do to try to go after those prospects.

(00:06:14) – So as far as funnel, right, middle of the funnel is people that are in consideration type of phase, right? That’s companies that that know they have a problem. They’re trying to figure out what’s the best solution to address it. So, that’s traditionally what you would call a middle of the funnel type of prospect. And what they want to know is what products exist that help solve my problem. Who are the companies that offer these solutions? What other options are there, and how do they compare to each other. So, it’s really that considering doing research kind of phase.

(00:06:45) – Yeah, and then when you look at the bottom of the funnel, that’s when they’re in that decision stage, so these are companies that have done their research. They know how they want to solve the problem, and they’re ready to evaluate a short list of vendor options. A lot of times, because prospects are making up to 80% of their purchase decision before they’ll engage with a sales rep, this is the point when they’ve got a short list of vendor options, where they typically will raise their hand and say, okay, I’m ready to have a conversation with you. And so, you want to be in front of them before they get to the decisions phase, obviously, but you want to start getting at top of funnel to build that brand awareness, credibility and trust, but definitely middle of funnel when they know they have a problem and they’re looking at what are the different options and solutions out there to address it. But when you get to the bottom of the funnel and they’re closer to making that decision, what they want to know at that stage is what are the core features of your technology solution, and how does that help solve the problem that they have? What differentiates competitors from each other? They want to know your pricing. They want to know each vendor’s experience level.

(00:08:05) – So, this is where they’re really digging into the nitty gritty. They want to see a demo of your product. They want to understand how much, from a budget standpoint, it’s going to take to be able to put that in play. What is implementation look like?

(00:08:20) – You started to say that like, yeah, they’re also probably thinking about what other things are connecting on the back end? Who else am I going to need to bring into this process? What other software connects to this, and IT people do I need, and all that kind of stuff? They’re starting to mull over in their minds.

(00:08:37) – Exactly, and how easy is it to manage the software? Where does it fit in our whole HR tech stack? Yes, all of those things that you probably get asked by prospects when they’re at that stage are the things that you want to think about from a content perspective. So, let’s talk about some ideas for kicking up lead activity. It’s easy to talk about like the stages of the funnel, but we’re trying to uncover these elusive buyers. And it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Because, as Greg talked about earlier, if a normal economy means 5% of companies are in-market at any given time for your solution, when the purse strings tighten up and it’s a tougher economy and a harder selling environment, there’s 1% that might be in market. So, give us some thoughts. What are some things organizations can do to identify who the high intent buyers are?

(00:09:36) – As far as like creating content where those high intent buyers, things that they would want would be video demos, use cases, case studies, competitor comparison guides, sales enablement tools, things that they would be thinking about that you can help them to make the next step right, because they’re not necessarily going to reach out and ask for the content, right? They’re not going to necessarily ask for a demo unless they’re really close. So, you know, it could even be like a live webinar or something where you have a bunch of people, and you’re doing a demo and talking about the product. Some of the things that it solves. Maybe touch on some features that are coming, like pique their interest, right?

(00:10:14) – And maybe you’re using some of the marketing channels you would typically use, but the point with the content is, if you know that you’re trying to target middle of funnel, bottom of funnel individuals because they have demonstrated some level of buying intent, or you’re trying to see who engages with stuff to determine that, so you can figure out a next step to continue to nurture that and bring them to close one, is to think about the content from the perspective of the buyer. I think a lot of companies are really good at creating top of funnel content, thought leadership, things like that. That tends to be where we see a bigger library of content, but when you start to try to attract people, you’re going to need content that if they’re really researching your product or your technology, and they want to know more that it’s really easy for them to find that information. And really it’s about how do I answer all the questions that they could possibly have about choosing a solution like ours, and then ultimately narrowing it down and choosing our solution because we are the best option for them, and we’ve demonstrated that for them.

(00:11:26) – And all of that content you create then can be used in campaigns to get in front of prospects and see who engages with it because if someone doesn’t engage with that type of content, for example, they’re not looking at your demos, they’re not reading your case studies, there’s probably no buying intent there right now, right? Like they’re more likely to be engaging with the top of the funnel content that’s without leadership and educational stuff. But if you’re putting campaigns out there and you have people who are looking at those things, that’s where we say, okay, that’s demonstrating some level of buying intent. Is it a guarantee? No. There are certainly going to be people who, out of curiosity, they’re like, oh, I want to watch this video demo, because maybe someday I will be able to purchase something like this, or need something like this, but it certainly gives you a better indicator than if they downloaded your whitepaper, or read your research report, or listen to your podcast, things like that.

(00:12:28) – You can also start to look for ways to drive leads through email campaigns. If you have a bunch of prospects that are stalled in the pipeline, we could develop some campaigns around that to try and get them to move down the line, overcome objections they might have, get some opportunities in the pipeline that have gone dark, or that aren’t responding and try to get them moving again. So, that would be bottom of the funnel content messaging to overcome those common objections that people have as they get towards the end of the sales cycle.

(00:12:59) – A stalled pipeline campaign, really, what the goal is with that is to keep the connection alive with stalled leads; to try to re-engage and move them forward in the funnel. To Greg’s point, talking about overcoming common objections if you know, okay, these are common objections and reasons typically why we will lose a prospect, or deal will close out, or go dark, developing a whole bunch of content around overcoming those objections, answering those questions, addressing those concerns, and then building a campaign for that stalled pipeline, and how you identify those people that should be in the stalled pipeline campaign.

(00:13:39) – I mean, go and look at Salesforce or whatever sales CRM you have and pull out, like, here’s the leads that have gone dark, or have taken way longer than we think they should and just aren’t as responsive, or don’t seem to be moving forward and developing that email campaign with that type of content around them and seeing who engages with that. And then when they start to engage with that content, hopefully that picks the sales conversation back up.

(00:14:09) – And another one you could try is going back to your website and seeing who’s a known identity there and who’s been to the website, and engage with a bunch of pure content, and leverage marketing automation, and your other tech to help identify these people who visited the demo landing page, for example, or some other high intent content, but they didn’t convert. Obviously, trying to promote product insights for them to learn more about what you’re offering.

(00:14:37) – And the goal with a website visitor known identity campaign is to maximize prospect engagement with content to move them forward. You don’t always know who comes to your website; you can’t see that, but if you’ve got marketing automation in play, and they’ve clicked on an email or two before, and the cookies have dropped on their computer, you can see when they come back to the website, or when they visit a page, right? And so you can see what type of pages they’re visiting, and obviously, there are some things, hopefully, on your site that would demonstrate some level of buying intent. Like Greg said, it could be a demo landing page. It could be case studies, use cases, different things. Like, look at that, and if you know that they’re visiting those specific pages, have it trigger a campaign to them that’s going to promote product information. If you have a product insights portal on your site, for example, try sending them there to get them to look at more content, specifically around the product and the problems that you solve for them, so that they can get more perspective on that and hopefully re-engage with you.

(00:15:50) – You can also do identified intent campaign to help uncover in-market prospect; get leverage intent data technology, like from Sixth Sense, or some others to identify companies that have some triggers that have indicated they might be in market for your products or your services.

(00:16:08) – Yeah, so there are a lot of tools out there these days that can identify buying intent. If you have those triggers figured out and you can get that technology to flag that for you, that’s another way to go about trying to find the companies that are already in the market to buy and are looking at different things. What those buying intent triggers would be, well, we’ve talked about that a lot already. You know, it’s the type of content they’re looking at. It’s maybe different things that are happening in their organization that might flag it. For example, let’s say they have a new chief technology officer coming into the organization, or a new chief HR officer, or people officer. Maybe that’s a trigger for you that says, okay, we know from looking at our past client experience, when we engage with someone who’s new in the organization, plus these other factors, that we have a chance to kick up some business because they’re coming in and looking to change things up. And with that, I think there’s different approaches you can take from an email campaign perspective.

(00:17:14) – The last two that we just talked about certainly bleed into this, but you could also look at doing, like what we call, spear emails that are designed to look like 1 to 1 communications from a sales rep. You go, and promote middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel content in them. And the goal with using these technologies that will flag companies that may have potential intent, it’s to uncover in market buyers, obviously. So, the more you can fine tune that, the more likely you are to be able to find those companies that actually may have some level of interest in purchasing right now, so you can develop marketing campaigns to reach out to them.

(00:17:58) – But you could also do something where you’re trying to move the contacts further into the next stage of the funnel. You know, if you call the funnel stage nurture campaign, but basically you’re trying to stay on top of mind with the prospects, and then try to move those top of funnel people down a little bit more, and the middle of the funnel people down a little bit more, right, and try to get them down towards decision. Just to try to keep nurturing and keep them moving through the pipeline.

(00:18:25) – Yeah, this is a pretty basic approach. I mean, it’s not something earth shattering, I’m sure, we’re recommending to people to, hey, set up nurture campaigns. But if you build the nurture campaigns in a way where you have like three streams and it’s like, okay, we’ve got a top of funnel stream and we’re going to put everybody in that top of funnel stream, see how they engage with the content. And if they don’t engage, like, okay, there’s probably not any level of buying intent there right now. They’re not even engaging with the top of the funnel, but if they start to engage with the content, then they can drop down into the middle of the funnel stream. And if they’re looking at content and engaging with it, okay, maybe there is some level of buying intent. Let’s test those out and drop them into the bottom of the funnel stream to put more focus content on, and you can see what they are engaging with. And if you’re finding that they’re engaging with content that is more likely to be looked at, if you actually have a reason to consider the solution, then those are the individuals that you probably want to flag and have sales follow up with.

(00:19:33) – And the goal is with an ongoing nurture, of course, is to be top of mind with prospects, but because of the way that you’ve designed this campaign, where you can see which type of content they’re engaging with, that can tell you where they’re at in that funnel.

(00:19:51) – And of course, you can always try leveraging digital advertising to get more people to your content, right, as long as you’re making your call to action very clear of what it’s all about and targeted to your ideal customer profile, you can do some advertising and drive people to your product insights page on your website, obviously, ungated content. You’re driving them to keep them engaged and informed.

(00:20:17) – One thing to think about, like digital advertising, I think, is a spot where a lot of organizations jump to immediately when they want to drive leads. It’s really important to think about your approach with this. So you don’t necessarily want to run a bunch of ads that are like, view our demo, and throw it out there. Most buyers aren’t going to see one ad that says, view our demo and be like, you know what, I think I need this HR technology solution, sign me up. In fact, even if people click on it, the bounce rates on those pages tend to be pretty high, but I think if you look at a digital ad strategy where it’s like, okay, we want to see if there is buying intent out there and uncover those individuals. Actually start with content that is maybe top of the funnel. Don’t gate it, but have those ads. When they click on the ad, it takes them to your website. They get to see the content for free. Guess what? Now you’ve got them cookies, so you can do retargeting ads for them. And if they’re going specifically to certain pages on your website, that might demonstrate some level of buying intent. Like, they go to your pricing page, they look at your case studies, they watch your video demo that you have on this site. Those are the ones you want to retarget. And from a retargeting ad perspective, you want to continue to stay in front of those prospects for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days for that brand awareness, and you just keep pushing more content around potential objections to them.

(00:21:53) – It’s a lot different approach, I think, than a lot of companies take where they’re just like, well, we’ll put these if they search on these terms and we offer a demo, anybody that’s interested will click on it. Well, there’s a lot more that goes into getting someone there than that. And they don’t think it’s easy for most organizations, as that makes it sound. Like, you’ve got to do a lot of nurturing along the way, but you can continue to put the kind of content in front of them that is valuable to someone with actual buying intent to nurture them so that they do raise their hand and say, okay, I’m ready to see that demo.

(00:22:31) – Yeah you’re right. They’re not going to just click on an ad that says get a free demo, right? Because again it goes back to where we always go, right? Like, you don’t have the credibility and trust and the awareness, so you need to start with that and get them to understand where you are before they’re going, even, just because there’s an ad that says get a free demo. but they’re not going to click on that.You wouldn’t click on that. I wouldn’t click on that.

(00:22:54) – And I think the reality is from that perspective, because a lot of companies actually run digital ads, that that is the whole intent of it. But think about it from the buyer perspective, if you’re ready to see a demo on something, you’ve probably already done a lot of research. They’ve already been to your site. They know you exist. They’re more likely to go directly to your site to book a demo call, then to click on the ad that pops up while they’re on LinkedIn, or they’re searching on Google to be like, oh, that’s right, I wanted to see a demo click. Like, it doesn’t work that way. So yeah, you need to think wisely about how you want to use the digital advertising to make sure that the investment is worthwhile.

(00:23:38) – Something that just came into my mind as we were talking about this was depending on your strategy, right? With your pricing strategy and your branding strategy, like at a certain point, do you offer some type of incentive, right? Like maybe not right out of the gate, but maybe you’ve got them like so close, but you’ve sent them a whole bunch of stuff and they’re engaging and you try to get them, like at a certain point do you say, here’s a special offer. You get the first three months free or something like that. Like, I’m not saying lead with that, right, but at some point, does that become the thing to try to get them to make the final move, right? If we’re just trying to get those leads over the finish line, like, what is that last little thing, and when do you deploy that kind of idea?

(00:24:21) – Yeah, I think the key takeaway from this conversation, we know that for many of you, you’re trying to win the short game by bringing in more leads to fill the sales pipeline. Just make sure that you don’t overlook the fact that without a long game, it’s way harder to win the short game. It’s so important to have a marketing strategy that balances both the short game and the long game, but in the meantime, we hope the ideas in this episode have helped you uncover a few more in-market leads to start sales pipeline moving in the right direction.

(00:24:55) – Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech workers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. I sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus, give us a like, tell your friends. We’ll see you next time.

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