Demand generation vs lead generation: Key differences, examples and strategies for B2B marketing

Demand generation vs lead generation? Learning the difference between these two strategies is simple.

Demand generation is the process of building awareness and interest in your brand by showing potential prospects you understand their problem. Lead generation, on the other hand, is the process of converting those prospects into leads or customers by convincing them your brand has a solution to their problem.

So, if it’s that simple, where does the confusion come from? Why do so many B2B marketers still use these terms interchangeably?

Because these two marketing strategies usually work together. So, the line between the two easily gets blurred. Still, many companies neglect one of them, which can end up being a costly mistake. Why? In this blog post, we’re gonna show you why as we look at: 

  • Examples of marketing tactics to generate demand and generate leads 
  • How a strong demand generation strategy makes lead generation easier 
  • Real examples of companies successfully infusing demand generation and lead generation to create greater marketing impact 
  • How one company generated $1.5 billion in sales using an AI-powered demand generation strategy

Ready? Let’s get to it!

 

Demand generation vs lead generation: Marketing tactics

Remember: Demand generation is all about building awareness and interest in your brand by showing potential prospects you understand their problem. So, how do you do that? 

By educating them on the problem and presenting your brand as a thought leader by using marketing tactics, like: 

  • Content marketing: Create informational, top-of-the-funnel blog posts, infographics, video tutorials, podcasts, webinars, etc.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Make it easy for prospects to find your website and content on search engine platforms when searching for terms related to the problems your business helps solve.
  • Social media marketing: Publish engaging, valuable content that resonates with your ICP on the social media platforms where they spend the most time. 
  • Email marketing: Send updates about your product or service, thought leadership pieces on topics relevant to your industry, promotional offers and more. 
  • Advertising: Promote your demand generation content through Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads and other paid channels.
  • Influencer marketing: Work with people who have a strong online presence in your industry to promote your content to their audience.
  • PR campaigns: Reach out to journalists, bloggers, and other members of the press to get them to write about your business or feature your demand generation content.
  • Free resources: Offer something of value that people can use for free, such as a template or tool (e.g. a loan calculator from a financial service).  
  • Content syndication: Get your demand generation content featured on other websites and in front of new audiences.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Those are a lot of the same tactics we use to generate leads,” you’re not wrong. There’s a lot of overlap when it comes to tactics for demand gen and lead gen–especially since lead gen technically falls under the umbrella of demand gen. Still, it’s the intention and execution of those marketing tactics that make the difference. 

Remember: Lead generation is about converting prospects who have begun to see your business as a potential solution to their problem. How exactly do you do that? 

By giving prospects in-depth information about your solution, showing them you’ve solved problems similar to their problems before and moving them down your sales funnel with marketing tactics, like:  

  • Content marketing: Create informational, bottom-of-the-funnel content, such as a whitepaper, that prospects will want in exchange for their contact information. 
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Improve your website’s ranking for commercial and transactional keywords in search results so that when prospects look for a solution to their problem, they find you. 
  • Search engine marketing (SEM): Place ads on search engines like Google so that when prospects perform searches related to your solution, they find links to your website and landing pages.
  • Social media marketing: Use social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to reach out to prospects and build relationships.
  • Email marketing: Send emails that prospects will want to read, with the goal of getting them to click through to your website or landing pages. 
  • Advertising: Place ads about promotions and special offers on websites your target audience visits.
  • Influencer marketing: Collaborate with industry thought leaders and have them promote your brand to their audience.
  • Free trials and demos: Offer free trials or demos of your product or service so  prospects can see the value for themselves.

 

Why a strong demand generation strategy makes lead generation easier 

Marketers often fall into the trap of thinking that lead generation is the only goal. But without demand for your product, lead generation is an uphill battle. That’s why demand generation should be the focus first and foremost.

If you build demand first, lead generation becomes much easier because people are already interested in what you’re selling. How do you begin? Read our demand generation strategy guide to learn how to start generating demand from your ideal customers.

 

Examples of demand generation and lead generation 

Now let’s look at some real examples to help you further understand demand generation vs lead generation. Here are two B2B companies that strategically use demand generation and lead generation to get the most marketing impact. 

 

Example 1: Ahrefs

Ahrefs is an SEO tool that helps people improve their search engine rankings. To create demand, Ahrefs offers a variety of valuable content, like blog posts, video tutorials and free courses on digital marketing. And since that content is so valuable for their target audience, it attracts a lot of interest and awareness of the Ahrefs brand.

Even better, when using blog posts or videos to explain common issues for business owners like, “How to do YouTube keyword research,” Ahrefs shows their audience how the Ahrefs platform provides the perfect solution. As a result, their demand generation content almost effortlessly generates leads without ever needing to make a hard sale. 

Take a look for yourself.

 

Example 2: Monday.com 

Monday.com is a project management software that provides teams with a platform to plan, track and visualize work progress. To generate demand, Monday.com focuses on top-of-the-funnel content like blog content and video ads that target business owners and managers. For example, here’s one of their best video ads

Notice the video ad is short, sweet and to the point—which makes it easy to follow along and understand what Monday.com is all about. Without pushing, the ad also gently encourages viewers to sign up for a free 14-day trial.

Of course, if you do sign up for the trial, you then become a lead and begin receiving emails as part of a lead nurture sequence that encourages you to eventually subscribe to one of Monday.com‘s membership plans. 

Both Ahrefs and Monday.com show that demand generation and lead generation can work together to create a seamless experience from marketing to sales. But our next example company was able to do something even more spectacular. 

This company was able to go from having a list of seemingly dead leads to using a demand generation strategy that resulted in $1.5 billion in sales.

 

How one company increased pipeline by 15% using an AI-powered demand generation strategy

Splunk is a data software company that provides a platform for analyzing machine-generated big data. It’s used by organizations to gain insights into software operations, security and compliance. But, recently, they acquired a company in the DevOps space and needed a way to generate demand for a new offering in a new market segment.

Despite having an extensive ABM list, Splunk still struggled to find new prospects that would be interested in their solution. So, what did they do to generate enough demand and leads to make to increase pipeline by more than 15%?

To start, they used our Sales Development Platform to create a refined ICP. Since Rev uses AI technology to collect and analyze exegraphics—data on how companies operate and behave—Splunk’s new ICP became an aiCP (artificial intelligence customer profile) which continues to update as AI gathers more data on how Splunk’s best-fit customers operate and behave.

With the new aiCP, Rev was able to prioritize Splunk’s list and run a content syndication campaign, creating content that specifically targeted companies with the exegraphic markers for being the best fits for Splunk’s offer and the most ready to buy. In just three weeks, Splunk was able to attribute more than 15% of their pipeline to being high-quality MQLs that were prioritized using their aiCP.

 

Key takeaways 

Demand generation and lead generation are two important but distinct marketing strategies. You can and should use both strategies to ensure the success of your business. Here’s what you need to remember to make sure you get the most out of each.

 

What is demand generation? 

Demand generation is the process of creating awareness and demand for your product or service. It’s about getting your target market to see you as a trusted source of information and convincing them that you understand their problem.

 

What is lead generation? 

Lead generation is the process of converting prospects into leads. It’s about taking those who display interest in what you have to offer and nurturing them through your funnel until they’re ready to buy.

 

Demand generation vs. lead generation: Which one should come first? 

Demand generation. You can’t generate leads without first generating demand. If you do lead gen without demand gen, you’ll waste a lot of time and money on leads that go nowhere.

 

How can you ensure your demand generation strategy results in high-quality MQLs? 

By first taking the time to understand your target prospects, their needs and how their business operates. Then, you’ll create and promote demand generation content that’s specific to their interests and pain points.

To maximize your efforts, create an aiCP. This will help you prioritize which companies to target based on exegraphic data that signals fit and readiness to buy from your company. Contact us, and we’ll give you a sample list of accounts that look and act like your best customers!

Your ICP is broken, and here’s why

Ideal customer profiles are a staple of B2B sales strategy. And they make sense: if you can identify the traits that make your best customers your best customers, you can target the same traits in your best prospects.

The problem with ICPs is that they are generally a shallow way to characterize companies. A sales team can put an entire ICP in bullet points on a single slide. That ICP is often a static document, too, not accounting for changes in your best customers or your best prospects.

In essence, a traditional ICP is a stereotype. Sales teams target prospects on five or so traits. The B2C world has moved away from targeting prospects based on how they look, so why do so many B2B companies still target their best-fit customers that way?

The simple answer is that deeper information about companies is harder to take into account. Really, revenue teams need to identify prospects based on the decisions and behaviors of companies—but that data is hard to understand, let alone formulate. So, ICPs remain assumption-based, superficial and limited.

That’s why we at Rev set out to create a new approach to identifying best-fit prospects. Using our AI-based modeling techniques, we developed the aiCP: a dynamic, customizable and in-depth way to profile prospects across market segments.

Let’s look at the power of aiCPs and how they help revenue leaders target the right prospects.

 

aiCPs target look- and act-alikes.

 Traditional ICPs are so brief (and so shallow) because they essentially identify lookalike firmographics: industry, headcount, revenue, recent funding, specific job titles and so on. However, these are not insightful ways to understand how a company actually operates, and therefore how they compare to your best customers.

aiCPs, on the other hand, rely not on firmographics but on exegraphics. 

Exegraphics are pieces of information or characteristics that convey how a company executes its mission—and they are the crux of aiCPs. Just like the B2C world realized psychographics are far more powerful than demographics, Rev’s exegraphics offer the same caliber of insight beyond old-school firmographics for the B2B world.

Our modeling technique looks at everything from company messaging to hiring boards and employee resumes to understand how a company functions, how it changes over time and how it compares to its peers—and it examines millions of data points to build a clear picture of what actually makes your best customers your best. 

(For a more in-depth exploration of exegraphics, read What are exegraphics?)

Then, we build an aiCP from that picture. You get to really know how your best existing customers function, and what they share in common, regardless of topical characteristics. You know how your target market behaves on the inside—not just how it looks, but also how it acts—now that you’ve put more rigor into defining your ideal customers. Therefore, you can get much more precise in how you target new accounts, cutting through the fluff of firmographic lookalikes alone.

 

aiCPs evolve.

Too often, traditional ICPs remain static within a target market. A sales team identifies traits to look for, and then it sticks with them. However, industries and individual companies are constantly changing, and it makes little sense why a sales strategy shouldn’t evolve too.

That’s why we build aiCPs as living sales strategies: they are meant to iterate continuously, and respond both to the market and to your own human input.

 

Dynamic aiCPs

Once you enhance your customer profiles with aiCPs, incorporating change over time is inevitable. After all, your products change, your customers change, the economy changes. Nothing in a sales environment stays the same forever. The dynamic nature of aiCPs takes those changes into account.

  • aiCPs change with each successful sale. The customers you’re selling to today might look different than the ones six months or a year ago. You can push every sale you close back into the aiCP model so that it incorporates the new data points associated with that customer. Refining the aiCP each time a new customer comes on board keeps your seed list relevant and your targeting in sync with your market.
  • aiCPs grow alongside your best customers. Say your organization started off selling strictly to early-stage tech startup companies. You’re still closing those sales today, but your existing customers have stuck with you through their Series B funding and are increasingly becoming successful enterprise companies. By continuously reassessing your aiCP over time, your target profile grows to include other established companies that behave like your best oldest customers in addition to your best new customers.
  • Companies take actions that readjust themselves. Think of those important moments that dictate the course of a company. A new executive hire. A new product launch. Those fundamentally alter the way a company operates, which means they will either become a better or a worse target for your sales team. The dynamic nature of aiCPs capture those changes to reprioritize them for your revenue team.
  • New exegraphics improve the modeling. Exegraphics are not a static tool either. We at Rev are continuously developing new ways of understanding companies. That means each new analysis of your seed list will adjust the Rev Score of each target account and reprioritize them based on the best understanding available—in conjunction with the most recent assessment of thousands of active peer companies.

 

Customizable aiCPs

For all the characteristics of companies that exegraphics capture, they don’t catch your own human understanding of your revenue team, your company and your customers. That’s why aiCPs are customizable, allowing you to weight certain traits and prioritize accordingly.

Rev’s AI model is not a black box: it’s a powerful tool to give you, as a revenue leader, the target list you need. Pairing that utility with your institutional knowledge enables you to create massively effective customer profiles, prioritized according to your understanding of what matters.

Our customers are able to drive their aiCPs. We’ll help you define custom exegraphic lenses. We’ll help you prioritize what’s meaningful or feasible for your revenue team. That can look like just about anything you can imagine—because while we’re passionate about getting you connected with top-quality prospects, you also need to feel passionate about the results.

 

aiCPs open up unexpected market segments, save resources and help you move faster.

Cutting-edge aiCPs offer plenty of advantages over traditional ICPs for revenue teams looking to reach new customers. Yet one of the great strengths of the aiCP model is its ability to identify entirely new market segments for growth-minded organizations.

You can dig deeper into how aiCPs open up new market segments in New ways to identify new market segments. Here, though, are some key insights into how an aiCP drives growth for companies who need to break into new markets.

  • aiCPs do away with assumptions. The exegraphics behind aiCPs are less concerned with what industry a company is in, and more concerned with the interior functions of that company. So when the AI model identifies act-alike companies for your best customers, those often reside in entirely different and unexpected market segments from your typical clients.

 

Without this knowledge, revenue teams looking to breach new segments tend to presume that adjacent markets make for strong prospects. It makes some sense to reason that similar markets will have similar needs, and that this transition will be an easy one. Yet adjacent markets, despite appearing similar, are not always the best prospects. Let’s say your current best customers are auto insurance companies. You might decide to start targeting health insurance companies, while your hypothetical aiCP shows that the financial sector is your strongest addressable market—a pivot you would never make without deep insights into those prospects.

  • aiCPs allow you to breach new markets more affordably. It’s expensive to craft a marketing plan for a new market segment. (One of the appeals of adjacent markets is that the marketing team isn’t building from the ground up.) But with the high-fidelity prioritization offered by aiCPs, you aren’t targeting the TAM from the start. You are taking a strike-team approach: sending in a small handful of sales reps, with basic early-messaging collateral, to make first contact with prospects most likely to bite.
  • aiCPs get you to market faster. That surgical approach to the first prospects gets your team talking to prospects instead of building strategies without on-the-ground knowledge. What kind of engagement is happening? Can your reps close a deal? What needs to shift?

 

The customers you land (and the ones you don’t) can inform both the ever-evolving aiCP and your team’s sales strategy. You’re not stuck waiting for the marketing machine to start turning out materials before you can get started. The precision and high resolution of your aiCP accelerates the info-gathering period and helps you assess, quickly and definitively, whether a new market segment is viable. With this approach, you can manage that in 3-6 months, rather than the more usual 12-18 months to develop a go-to-market program.

The aiCP, in short, keeps your revenue team at the top of their game. Your decisions are driven by data more than generalization. Your targeting is more focused, your likelihood of landing new customers increases. You can accomplish more sales in less time, using less of your resources. And your strategy evolves as you do, keeping your team continuously sharp.

To see how your ICP compares to your aiCP—and get a view of the behavioral characteristics of your best customers—contact us to schedule your free aiCP audit.

New ways to identify new market segments

Every company that looks to enter a new market segment faces the same struggles: understanding the true total addressable market (TAM) and identifying the target accounts most likely to engage. There’s never been a handbook for this, no way to ensure that a company with strong market/product fit in one segment will meet any success in another.

So revenue leaders rely on certain methods that, on the surface, make intuitive sense. But what we propose at Rev is to move beyond “intuition” and put data science behind these decisions. We want B2B companies to enter new market segments with the highest probability of landing new customers.

Our whole thesis is that if you can understand the underlying dynamics of how companies operate, you can identify your true ideal customers, even if they belong to entirely unexpected industries—thereby overcoming the common challenges revenue leaders face when entering new market segments.

 

The old ways are based on assumptions

The traditional methods for moving into a new market might work sometimes—the same way a broken clock does. The strategies themselves, however, are follies.

These are some of the more common less-than-successful practices we see, all based on assumptions made with the best information typically available.

 

Folly #1: Adjacent markets make for strong prospects.

We have a lot of sympathy for this assumption: if your current market segment is successful, an adjacent one will be too. Why not? The two markets look similar and have similar needs. You won’t have to tweak your messaging or your marketing much. The new customers might even be familiar with your product already.

Just because your product fits the apple vendor market, though, doesn’t mean it will necessarily fit the orange vendor market. The way those two business types operate under the surface differ in a lot of ways. Assuming they are both ideal target markets is based on the assumption that all fruit vendors are alike, when in reality they are… well… apples and oranges. 

It’s not as easy as we think it is to identify a new market and build a go-to-market program around it. Targeting adjacent markets is grounded in the assumption that lookalikes are also act-alikes. Companies fail when they pivot to adjacent markets without understanding their underlying behaviors and practices.

 

Folly #2: Rely on firmographics to build ICPs.

Oftentimes, when entering a new market, a company will pull a list of all the potential customers with certain firmographics: they fit a particular vertical, within a particular range of headcount or revenue, and so on. Then the company makes the leap that they’ve identified their total addressable market based on these firmographic parameters.

Within that strategy, we also see companies build their TAL based on names they recognize. Familiarity as a substitute for fit.

However, a target account list based on firmographic parameters is shallow. Just because a company matches certain (relatively superficial) qualities does not mean they are likely to become actual customers: firmographics tell you next to nothing about how a company behaves, or how they actually compare to your existing best customers.

If your ICP is shallow, so is your strategy. And firmographics by nature do not dig deep into a target company. Building a target list this way is like thinking you can find your soulmate by looking for five particular traits, when really so much more than that has to add up.

 

Folly #3: Fail faster in targeting first accounts.

All of us who have worked with startup companies know the notion of failing faster. The flaw with that mentality in breaching new markets is that the failing only matters if it’s in the right direction—and all too often, because of the previous assumptions, the first target accounts are the wrong ones.

This is the first-mile problem: if your first ten accounts fail because you targeted them for the wrong reasons, you just walked a mile in the wrong direction. The market might still be a fine fit! But these prospects were not.

Walking in the right direction, where you can still learn from failing fast, starts with high confidence in the target account list. Which can only happen when you are not polluting yourself with bad data from the start.

 

New ways are faster and better informed

So how do we start with good data? How do we start with an informed sales strategy instead of best-guess assumptions?

At Rev, we use modeling techniques based on company behavior to enhance the probability of understanding target markets and getting things right, right away.

 

Data that digs deeper than firmographics

The B2C world has figured out that demographics don’t do enough to understand customers, so it has developed psychographics. The B2B world lacks that same sort of insight, so we developed exegraphics.

Exegraphics, in short, are pieces of information or characteristics that convey how a company executes its mission. Our AI-driven modeling technique looks at everything from company messaging to hiring boards and employee resumes to understand how a company functions, how it changes over time, and how it compares to its peers—and it examines millions of data points to build a clear picture of what makes your best customers your best.

(For a more in-depth exploration of exegraphics, read What are exegraphics?)

When you understand the exegraphics of your best customers, you’re better able to create a true, working ICP—one that goes beyond firmographics. We call it an aiCP, and its dynamic nature empowers you to always know the changing attitudes and behaviors of the companies that are “fit and ready” to hear from you. (Read more about how we build aiCPs and how they work here.)

These concepts are a lot to take in, but they are like Moneyball for B2B sales teams entering new markets: once you’re free from targeting only lookalikes, you can discover entirely new market segments that behave very similarly to your ICP, regardless of industry.

 

Meaningful prioritization of target accounts

The old way to decide who to call first usually comes down to familiarity or even gut feel. The stacking of exegraphics results in what we call a “Rev Score”—the higher the score, the stronger the likelihood of a successful fit.

Ranking the entire TAM by Rev Score results, essentially, in a tailor-made prioritization list, so you know you’re walking that first mile in the right direction.

Now, you can still customize that list for your first forays into the market segment. If you’re taking a SWAT-team approach, sending in a small number of sales reps without extensive marketing, you might want to identify, for example, a specific function in these organizations that will resonate with your value proposition. Prioritization gives us that starting point, so we have the ability to pinpoint companies that improve our probability of success—and enable us to fail forward, when we fail.

 

Deep roster of target accounts

The AI-driven modeling technique doesn’t just give you the best prospects: it gives you a lot of them—and if it doesn’t, you know that a particular market segment isn’t actually very promising.

A team of humans can easily enough build a target account list of a few dozen companies. It will take a bit of time to comb through their press releases, research their team and evaluate their market. And that list would likely have some really good fits.

But you need more than a handful of companies in a new market segment—you need hundreds or thousands. There’s no way humans can go through that evaluation process manually in any effective way. And the list will change with time, too—exegraphics evolve, your existing customer base shifts, and companies undergo internal changes, all of which will affect Rev Scores and the prioritization of your list.

The best targets this month might not be your best targets next month, and you need to stay on top of who your best prospects really are, right now, out of all the potentials in the segment.

 

Go to market quicker than ever

All these new ways of entering a new market segment boil down to having much more rigor about your process. No longer do you have to throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks: you know you’re sending reps after the prospects most likely to bite.

That means you can have confidence in a more surgical strategy. You can develop early messaging and simple collateral right from the start. A few good pieces is all you need to start testing the market. Is engagement happening? Can your reps actually close a deal? If not, what needs to shift? You’re not stuck bringing in the marketing team and waiting for that engine to turn out materials before you can get started.

This whole approach speeds up the information-gathering period and helps you assess, quickly and definitively, whether a new market segment is actually viable. You should be able to manage this in 3-6 months, not the more typical 12-18 months that companies need to determine market fit.

Not only are you making sales that much sooner—you’re getting your product into that new market faster, which can be particularly powerful with new adopters, and you are more likely beating your competitors to the new market too.

Momentum matters in B2B sales. Momentum early on makes even more of a difference. By breaking out of the old ways of testing new markets, and getting precise with the new ways, you’ll experience success in segments you never imagined entering.

If you’re considering expanding into a new market, make exegraphics part of your strategy. Let us show you the exegraphics behind your best customers.

 

Demand generation strategy: 5 core steps for B2B marketing teams

You can attempt to generate cold leads all day. But if there’s no desire or demand for your offer… Well, then you might be wasting your time.

That’s why demand generation is an essential component of B2B marketing. Because if you don’t already have a demand generation strategy, you’re likely leaving A LOT of money on the table.

But, what exactly is demand generation? And how do you build a demand generation strategy that makes the process of generating qualified leads a whole lot easier?

It’s simple. And your marketing team may already be headed in the right direction. But, once you combine and structure the methods we’ll share in this blog post, you’ll have a consistent way to:

  • Build brand awareness and loyalty among your ideal customers 
  • Position your brand as an authority in your industry
  • Send your sales team a steady stream of MQLs

And, as a BONUS, we’ll also show you how to use exegraphic data to get the most ROI from your demand generation campaigns. 

But, before we dive into all that, let’s look at some examples of demand generation so you don’t confuse it with similar strategies, like lead generation.

 

What is demand generation?

Demand generation, also known as demand gen, is the process of creating and nurturing demand for your products or services. It’s a way of showing your ideal customer that your business is aware of their pain points and is a trusted source for solutions to that pain.

Without a strong demand generation strategy, it can be challenging to attract new customers to your business because they won’t have enough knowledge on how and why they should trust your business to help them. But how does that look in practice? 

Here are two great examples of demand generation: 

  • Shopify offers Shopify Learn, a series of free tutorials, online courses and webinars that teach prospects how to start a successful online business. 
  • Wise, the FinTech app for transferring money, offers a free business plan template that promises to help users learn how to connect with investors and grow their business.

Now, if even after looking at those examples, you think demand generation sounds similar to lead generation, you’re not alone. Many marketers use these terms interchangeably because they are closely related. But there is a difference!

 

How is demand generation different from lead generation? 

Unlike lead generation, demand generation is not about convincing prospects to buy what you have to offer. Rather, demand gen is about creating awareness and interest in your products or services. When done correctly, the demand you’ve generated results in prospects being more likely to purchase from you when they are ready. 

So, lead generation and demand generation are not the same thing. Because lead gen is one of the major components of demand gen.

 

The 3 major components of demand generation

Remember: when you develop a strong demand generation strategy, you’ll be able to… 

  • Build brand awareness and loyalty among your ideal customers 
  • Position your brand as an authority in your industry
  • Send your sales team a steady stream of MQLs

And those three benefits sum up the major components of demand generation marketing. But let’s spend a minute looking at each one in more detail. 

 

Building brand awareness and loyalty 

You know that brand awareness is the extent to which consumers are familiar with your brand and what it offers. Without brand awareness, you won’t make any sales. You also know that brand loyalty is considered the “holy grail” of marketing. Without brand loyalty, you’ll struggle to retain customers and spend too much trying to acquire new ones. 

The goal of demand generation is to systematize the process of building brand awareness and loyalty using inbound marketing techniques that have the power to generate leads. 

 

Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on creating valuable content that attracts and nurtures prospects at every stage of your funnel. Some examples include: 

  • Writing helpful and actionable blog posts
  • Developing informative eBooks or whitepapers
  • Sending a valuable email newsletter
  • Offering free trials or demos

Soon, you’ll see that this type of content, created with your ideal customer profile (ICP) in mind, is essential to your demand generation strategy. Why? Because inbound marketing is one of the most effective methods for generating quality leads. For example, according to a recent survey, 80% of business decision-makers prefer to learn the information needed to make buying decisions from a series of articles instead of an ad.

 

Lead generation

Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting prospects into leads. On its own, lead gen attempts to attract and convert prospects into leads. 

But, when used as a component of demand generation, lead generation becomes a method of finding prospects most likely to convert (i.e. those who’ve shown interest or signs of readiness) and then using targeted content to nurture them at every touch point of the customer journey–from initial awareness all the way until they decide to purchase your offer. 

 

How to build a successful demand generation strategy

Developing a demand generation strategy doesn’t have to be a complicated overhaul of how you currently approach B2B marketing. But it does require a thoughtful combination of goals, techniques and strategies to have the highest likelihood of success. Here’s how to get started:

 

Step 1: Determine clear goals and metrics of success

The first step in any demand generation strategy is to determine exactly what you want to achieve. Is an increase in brand awareness or website traffic enough? Or do you hope to use demand generation as a way to support more specific goals and KPIs, like: 

  • Generate 2x more high-quality MQLs every month?
  • Decrease customer acquisition costs by 5% before the end of the year? 
  • Increase conversions by 13% for a particular product or service? 

Demand generation can support all of those goals and more. But you’ll never know for sure if you’re getting sufficient ROI if you don’t start with a clear set of goals and metrics.

 

Step 2: Understand your audience by developing your ICP and buyer persona

You’ll never create demand for your offer if you direct your strategy to the wrong audience. That’s why you need to take time to understand what type of organizations fit your ideal customer profile (ICP) and what types of people at those organizations fit your buyer persona. 

If you’re unfamiliar, your ICP is a data-driven description of the type of businesses you serve best. Typically, this description includes firmographic data on things like: 

  • Industry 
  • Company size
  • Geographic location
  • Annual sales and revenue

Using a platform like Rev, you can also harness the power of exegraphic data, which you can use to build a more comprehensive ICP. Unlike firmographic data, exegraphic data allows you to dig into how a company operates and behaves to gather insights on things like how quickly a company tends to adopt new technology or which departments within the company are currently shrinking.

With Rev, you can also generate a living model of your ICP—what we call an aICP—that uses AI technology to automatically update the profile of your ideal customer as the behaviors of your best customers change over time. We’ll get more into how that can benefit your demand gen strategy soon. But first let’s talk about the other component of understanding your audience: buyer personas.

A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. For example, you’d establish your buyer persona on the key decision makers working at the type of companies you’ve identified with your ICP.

When developing buyer personas, consider questions like:

  • What are their demographics?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What solutions are they looking for?
  • Who do they report to? 
  • What are some of their KPIs? 
  • Where and how do they prefer to consume content related to their job?

Once you have a clear understanding of your ICP and buyer persona, you can move on to creating targeted content that generates demand from your target audience.

 

Step 3: Create content that moves your target audience through the customer journey

Now, it’s time to start generating demand and, ultimately, leads. You’ll do that by creating content that educates your target audience and helps them move through the customer journey.

Here are some examples of content you can develop to meet those goals:

  • Awareness. At this stage of the customer journey, you’ll create top-of-funnel content that aims to increase brand awareness and educate your target audience about your product or service. For example, you could publish blog posts that discuss methods for relieving your common pain points for your buyer personas. 
  • Consideration. For this stage, you’ll create middle-of-funnel content that provides more detailed information about your product or service and how it can solve your target customer’s pain points. For example, you could develop a white paper that provides an in-depth analysis of a problem your audience faces and how your product or service provides a solution. 
  • Decision. Finally, for this stage, you’ll create bottom-of-funnel content that focuses on helping your target customer make a purchase decision. Here, you can offer free demos for your product or service so your audience can see if it’s a good fit for what they need. 

To get the most benefit from your content, you’ll also need to have a strategy for promotion and distribution to ensure your target audience sees and engages with your content. Some ideas for promoting your content include social media, email marketing and paid advertising. You may also consider running a content syndication campaign to have your content republished on third-party websites.

 

Step 4: Test, analyze and optimize 

Demand generation isn’t a one-and-done sort of deal. You should always test different strategies and tactics to see what works best for creating interest and demand among your target audience.

One of the best ways to test and optimize your demand generation strategy is by doing A/B testing, which allows you to compare two versions of a piece of content or campaign to see which one performs better. You can also use analytics tools to track your progress and see which demand generation tactics have worked best.

By regularly performing tests and analyses, you can ensure that your demand generation strategy is giving you as much ROI as possible.

 

Step 5: Measure success based on your goals

Lastly, you’ll need to measure the success of your demand generation efforts. You can look to do this around 90 days after you’ve begun your demand generation campaign. But how do you measure your success? Simple: by going back to the goals you set in step 1.

Has your demand generation campaign helped to achieve those goals? If yes, which strategies are working best so you can continue building on that success?

If not, what do you think is holding you back? Have you targeted the wrong ICP or buyer persona? Is your content not providing enough value to position your business as an industry leader?

By taking the time to measure your success, you can make adjustments as needed or decide that you need some help.

 

How Rev helps with demand generation

A demand generation campaign that successfully generates MQLs with high potential for conversion requires that you have two things:

  1. A comprehensive list of companies that match your ICP (so you know whom to target)
  2. A data-driven approach to content syndication (so you know where to target them) 

Without these two components, you run the risk of wasting your time. For example, you could end up trying to generate demand from an audience that isn’t likely to engage with your company. You might also fail to promote your demand gen content in the places your audience is most likely to see it.

Rev’s Sales Development Platform helps you avoid these common mistakes. Using exegraphic data, Rev generates a list of accounts who behave like your best customers and have the highest propensity to engage with your demand gen content—and with your sales reps. With that information, you can ensure that you’re distributing your content to the places where your ideal customers spend time online. 

Essentially, Rev helps you take the guesswork out of generating demand and leads by empowering you with the data needed to create and distribute content that resonates with your ideal customers. 

Want to get a snapshot of the behavioral and operational characteristics that define your next best customers? Contact us and schedule your free ICP audit.

Outsourced lead generation: How to choose the right lead generation service

Cold calling. Email marketing. Referrals. LinkedIn. Facebook Ads. Content Marketing. SEO. You see where we’re going? 

There are many ways you can generate leads for your business. But that doesn’t mean lead generation is easy! In fact, according to a recent HubSpot report, 61% of marketers rank lead generation as their biggest challenge.

So, it’s no wonder you’re considering outsourced lead generation as a way to grow your business. Outsourcing can save you time and provide you with a consistent stream of leads ready to convert.

But… that doesn’t mean you can hire just any lead provider and expect amazing results. It’s, unfortunately, not that easy either! But we’ve put together this quick guide to help simplify the process.

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll learn:

  • The value of lead generation outsourcing
  • The pros and cons of outsourcing lead generation 
  • When you should consider outsourcing 
  • How to choose a lead generation company 
  • The best platform to generate leads above the funnel
  • The benefit of using exegraphic data for outsourced lead generation

But, first, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what outsourced lead generation means!

 

What is outsourced lead generation?

Outsourced lead generation is the process of hiring a third-party lead generation service to find leads for your business. Outsourced lead generation service providers also guide prospects through the initial stages of your funnel, priming them for conversion for your sales team. 

Most B2B lead generation companies begin by creating your ideal customer profile (ICP), identifying companies that share characteristics with that profile and then doing common lead generation tasks like:

  • Cold calling and emailing
  • Cold messaging on social media platforms 
  • Running content syndication campaigns 
  • Using outbound and inbound marketing techniques to promote your product or service
  • Following up with prospects to schedule demos and appointments with your sales team 

Of course, if you have the resources, you could take care of all those tasks in-house. So, you’re right to wonder: what’s the value of outsourcing lead generation?

 

Is it better to outsource lead generation?

Outsourcing lead generation can be a great option for businesses of all sizes. The following sections will help you thoughtfully decide whether it’s better to outsource your lead generation or commit to keeping it in-house.

 

Pros and cons of outsourcing lead generation

Pros

  • Time saved. Lead generation can be a time-consuming process. And by outsourcing, you can free up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.
  • Cost-effective. Hiring a full-time employee or team for in-house lead generation can be costly. And if that person or team doesn’t have enough marketing and sales experience, you may not get the results you want.
  • A team focused exclusively on lead generation. When you outsource lead generation, you work with a team of professionals who are focused exclusively on the task of finding qualified leads. This means they’re likely to have processes in place to generate leads effectively.
  • More leads, more often. A lead generation service provider will likely have more manpower to dedicate to providing leads frequently. They’ll also likely have access to a database of potential leads, which they can tap into quickly.
  • AI technology to find and manage the most qualified leads. The best lead generation services will use AI-powered automation to identify and manage the most qualified leads.
  • Shorter sales process. By hiring a lead generation service, your sales team can focus on selling, rather than spend time cold calling and scheduling demos. This can help to shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.

Cons

  • Potential for low ROI. If outsourced lead generation is not done correctly (i.e. quantity of leads is valued more than the quality of leads), it can be very costly with little to show for it in terms of new customers. This is why it’s so important to do your research and choose a reputable service provider.
  • Less control. By outsourcing, you give up some control of your sales process. If you’re not actively involved, it can be difficult to track the results of your outsourced lead generation and make changes as needed.
  • Requires an investment. The cost of lead generation service can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per month.

 

Questions to determine if it’s better to outsource lead generation

Pros and cons may help give you a general idea. But, eventually, you’ll need to think about the specifics of your business to determine if outsourcing is a good option. Here are some guiding questions to help: 

  1. Do you have the resources to staff an entire team of experienced marketers and sales reps to generate leads?
  2. Do you have a method of consistently getting leads that match your ideal customer profile?
  3. Are you happy with your business’s current cost per lead? What about the quality of leads?
  4. Are you generating enough leads to support your sales team’s quota?
  5. Do you have the internal infrastructure to support a successful lead generation program? 
  6. Does your marketing team have the capacity to focus on outbound AND inbound lead generation? 

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, outsourcing to a B2B lead generation company is worth considering. Your efforts in-house can only take you so far. Outsourcing could allow you to skyrocket your growth by establishing a system of regularly sourcing leads that are likely to convert.

 

How do you choose a lead generation service?

Unfortunately, outsourcing lead generation doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed results. There’s no shortage of lead generation companies that are more than happy to charge you a high price for a list of leads that aren’t a good fit for your business. 

So, what should you look for when choosing a lead generation service? How do you make sure you’re working with a company that won’t waste your money? Here are a few recommendations:

 

Check credentials

Make sure the company you’re considering has experience in lead generation and a proven track record with companies in your industry. You might also check to see what professional certifications their team has. 

 

Read online reviews

When you’re considering outsourcing lead generation, you should read online reviews to get a sense of what other companies have experienced. You can look at Google reviews or Clutch.co to read reviews of companies.

 

Look at previous clients and case studies

Case studies are one of the best ways to see if a company can actually deliver the results they promise. Any good lead generation company will have case studies on their website that you can review. If possible, try to find case studies for businesses in your industry.

 

Request a demo

Whether you’re looking at a lead generation agency or software, you should always get a demo before making a decision. This will allow you to see the product or service in action and ask any questions.

 

Ask these essential questions

Lastly, you should speak to one of the company’s sales reps and ask these questions:

What processes do you use for lead generation? Some companies focus only on a specific lead generation activity. So, you need to make sure the company can provide you with the service that best fits your company’s needs. 

How do you know that your process is effective? You want to know how they measure results and determine their success rate. It should always focus on lead quality rather than quantity. 

What criteria would you use to qualify a lead for my business? Lead generation service providers use data to match companies to your ICP. You want to make sure the data used will share reliable characteristics for determining what can be considered a qualified lead for your business.

Which software platform(s) do you use to generate leads? If your service provider doesn’t use software that collects the type of data and generates results in the way you need, the whole process easily becomes a waste of time and money.

 

Which platform is best to generate leads?

Lead generation teams have many software platforms to choose from. Some platforms help manage a particular part of lead generation while others provide tools to manage and generate leads at every stage of the sales process. 

Here are a few examples of tools used to generate leads: 

  • Customer Relationship Management Platforms (CRMs) help sales reps manage their interactions with leads and customers
  • Account-Based Marketing Platforms (ABM) help sales and marketing teams target key accounts and orchestrate account-based campaigns 
  • Sales Engagement Platforms automate repetitive sales tasks, like emailing and prospecting, to help sales reps sell more efficiently 
  • Demand Generation Platforms (DGPs) help sales and marketing teams generate demand for their products or services 
  • Sales Development Platforms (SDPs) help sales and marketing teams build prioritize target accounts lists—backed by data—for each channel

Which one’s best? Well, it depends on what your business needs and your budget. But, if you’re outsourcing lead generation because you want help with one of the most difficult parts of lead generation—finding leads above the funnel, before they’ve heard of you or your competitors and that match your ideal customer profile—make sure that your lead provider uses exegraphic data.

What’s that? If you’re unfamiliar with the term, exegraphic data refers to data that shows how companies operate and behave. For example, you can learn how quickly a company tends to adopt new technology by looking at exegraphic differences between companies. And it’s these types of insights that make it one of the most powerful resources for lead generation.

 

The power of exegraphics for lead generation

They might not want to admit it. But if you analyzed the typical sales development reps’ (SDR) methods for prospecting, you’d quickly realize one thing: there’s a lot of guessing going on. 

How so? Well, SDRs usually spend hours searching for companies that meet certain criteria, usually detailed in a company’s formal ICP doc. But more often than not, they’re guessing at which companies really “fit” the profile. 

Guessing, really? Yep! They’re guessing based on superficial data on things like employee demographics, company revenue and technologies currently being used by the company. 

But does any of that information really signal whether a prospect really “fits” the ICP or is showing signs of “readiness”’ to purchase? Not really. So, many SDRs fall into the trap of wasting even more time and resources trying to chase down prospects that will never close and leads that end up “clogging” their funnel.

Does any of this sound familiar? This inefficient lead generation strategy could be one of the reasons you’re looking to outsource in the first place. But why outsource to a company that’s just going to run into the same problem, providing you with an expensive list of lackluster leads? You shouldn’t and you don’t have to.

Rev helps sales reps avoid all of that guesswork, making it one of the best platforms for outsourced lead generation. Yes, that’s us. Yes, we’re slightly biased. But here’s why we say it with confidence: 

With Rev, any company can upload a list of their best customers, and AI analyzes that list and produces reports, based on exegraphic data, that essentially say, “here are the behavioral characteristics of your best customers—and, oh by the way, here’s a prioritized list of other companies that look and act like them too!” 

With that information, you gain a better sense of who your best customers are, how they behave and how to best reach them–enabling sales teams to meet prospecting and revenue goals faster and with more predictability.

 

Final thoughts

Lead generation is one of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks for sales and marketing teams. But it doesn’t have to be.

By making sure Rev’s Sales Development Platform is part of your outsource lead generation strategy (and even your outbound prospecting strategy), you can grow your pipeline with high-quality and high-volume leads. Using AI technology and exegraphic data, Rev shows you the fastest route to your revenue goals by listing out the companies you should target next, even before they show intent! 

Curious to learn more about exegraphics and how they can improve your lead gen strategy? Contact us, and we’ll give you a sample list of accounts that look and act like your best customers.

What is a marketing automation funnel?

Many marketing teams use a funnel to grow their business and build their customer base. They know most prospects aren’t ready to purchase the moment they hear about their product or service, and the funnel nurtures and moves leads along. Marketing funnels come in all sizes, and often become more complex as your team and customer base grows. The key to streamlining your funnel, making the best use of your team’s time and giving your prospects the smoothest experience as you scale is automation. So, let’s dive into all things marketing automation funnel.

 

The basics of the marketing automation funnel

Before we can talk about how to automate your marketing funnel, let’s first cover the basics of this experience so we’re all on the same page.

 

What is a marketing funnel?

We’ve covered marketing and sales funnels at length. (You can check out our articles on demand funnels and B2B sales funnels for an in-depth dive into this concept.) In short, a funnel helps you turn prospects into customers.

  1. First, prospects must learn about your product/service or become aware of your brand.
  2. Once they’re in the market for what you offer, they evaluate you. During this process, you may be pitted against several solutions, including products they already use.
  3. After a prospect has connected with your sales team and built confidence in your solution, they convert into customers. They implement your solution and introduce it to their business during this time.
  4. If all goes well, you create a loyal customer and you retain their business. These are the kinds of customers that tell all their friends and colleagues about your solution, driving more prospects to the top of your funnel. 

Marketing, as you can imagine, is primarily responsible for the top pieces of the funnel—everything from awareness to the moment a lead enters the sales process. Taking a closer look, you’ll see that the marketing funnel (again, which varies from company to company) includes:

  • Awareness
  • Lead capture
  • Prospect
  • Marketing qualified lead

 

What is marketing automation?

As organizations grow, it becomes harder for you and your team to do everything manually. Marketing automation is a strategy that companies can use to scale their efforts and systemize their work. Companies use many automation tools to handle tasks that are repetitive and/or need to be handled at scale, like sending emails, building landing pages, etc.

According to data from Ascend2, 80% of marketing professionals think marketing automation is important for their lead nurturing performance. Furthermore, a recent study from HubSpot revealed, “43% of marketers agree that automation and AI have been the most effective trends for their organization’s growth.” 

 

What is a marketing automation funnel?

A marketing automation funnel is, then, bringing automation to the top half of the traditional “funnel” we outlined above. By automating a lot of the work that would otherwise create a drag on your time (and the customer experience), you’re able to move prospects through the funnel and to sales faster. 

 

The benefits of a marketing automation funnel

Do you need a bit more convincing on the merits of automation? Let’s review some of the major benefits of investing time and energy into automating your company’s funnel.

 

Increase your funnel conversion rate

Adobe Digital Index published a 2020 report on consumer electronics. Their report looked at various industries like electronics, gifts, sports, apparel, etc., and found that the average conversion rate for industries was 3%. According to Chili Piper, the average conversion rate for B2B is 2.23% 

McKinsey has shared at length how automation can improve marketing and sales efficiency. When your team can work more effectively, you can close more deals every time.

 

Improve your data and analytics

When you add marketing automation tools to the mix, they’ll automatically start collecting data that your company will find valuable. Automated tools collect several data points and may even track things you didn’t think to consider. As a result, you’ll find even more value in your marketing and sales strategy as you include these tools in your day-to-day life.

 

Hire when you want to, not when you need to

You may know a company that was forced to hire before they were ready due to a sales boom. Hiring more marketers or salespeople is impressive, but not if you are forced to make the decision. So before you add another person to your company roster, think about the consequences of that decision. Is your business ready to take on the next hire?

Investing in automation software is typically cheaper than adding a new employee. Investing in technology can ensure that you take your time with all personnel additions.

 

When is the best time to introduce automation to your marketing funnel?

As you consider automating your funnel, you probably have thoughts on how this could work for your specific business. At what stage should you consider automating? Are there any particular circumstances that might help you automate earlier? 

Here are a few critical times where automating your marketing funnel makes sense:

 

You have a solid process for engaging leads

There’s a famous quote from Adam Stone, the CEO of D-Tools, “Anything that you do more than twice has to be automated.” Taking such a hard stance in business can be challenging, but automation can save your company time and money. If you’ve built out a solid lead engagement process, it may be time to bring automation into the mix.

 

You want to increase the number of leads coming in

Next, you’ll likely want to invest in an automated marketing funnel if you need to increase the number of leads coming into your funnel. Automated lead generation can be a great way to improve the number of leads your sales team has to follow up on. Rev has a best-in-class Sales Development Platform that can give your company a consistent stream of quality leads that your team can connect with. When you use our platform, our artificial intelligence can surface interesting traits and find companies that are fit and ready to hear your pitch.

 

You need to make it easier for leads to exit the funnel

If you’re like many companies, you struggle with getting customers to exit the funnel. As we’ve established, you don’t have customers until a contract is signed, so getting to the delight phase of the funnel is critical. If prospects are consistently getting stuck in one aspect of the funnel, it may be time to tap into automation.

It’s important to remember that automation is not a fix-all cure. If a part of your funnel isn’t working, you should address that instead of automating immediately. If you don’t fix the underlying issues with your funnel, it will continue to leak customers over time. Automate the parts of your funnel that work so you can focus on what doesn’t.

 

You are working with a lean operation of sales/marketing personnel

Whether you’re short-staffed or ramping up your smarketing team, it can be challenging to do everything with a lean operation. Many companies look for ways to automate and use tools to run their business effectively.

Tools don’t do everything for you. If you work in a high-touch industry, seeing a friendly face will help you close more deals. If your team is small, find ways to make their lives easier. How can automation help them do more with less?

 

How to set your marketing automation funnel up for success 

Understanding marketing automation and funnels separately is a significant first step for any marketing or demand generation team. It gives you the foundation you need to start exploring the areas within marketing that could benefit from automation. It gives you a nudge toward exploring the tools you can put into place to help streamline and scale your funnel. As you start looking into automating your funnel, consider a few things that will be critical to your success.

 

Start above the funnel

You need to engage with the right prospects. Otherwise, every step you take after is wasted. But, how do you know if you’re targeting the right ones?

Most companies today have created and rely on a one-sheet that details their ideal customer. This ideal customer profile (ICP) often relies on firmographic data, like industry, company size, geography, etc. and guides demand gen teams on whom to target. But, that’s not enough. Take a page from the B2C marketing book and make sure your ICP also includes behaviors.

 

Solve the first-mile problem

Many companies aren’t aware of what really makes their prospects a fit for their product or ready to buy. As a result, poor fit opportunities enter the funnel and both marketing and sales teams spend ample time working companies that will never close.

At Rev, we can help you understand what makes your best customers your best—and help you find others that look and act just like them. Using our Sales Development Platform, we can analyze a list of your best customers and tell you the traits (exegraphics) that make those customers great. Those exegraphics are then compiled to create a deep, working aiCP (AI-powered customer profile) and is used as a blueprint to find, create and prioritize a list of similar companies you can target.

 

Give prospects immediate value

One of the most complex parts of marketing is getting on people’s radar. After all, they can’t purchase from you if they don’t know you exist—or what you offer. In a sea of competitors, getting the recognition you want can be challenging.

One of the ways to gain that recognition is to help your prospects solve a problem, no strings attached. What do we mean by this? Share content that will help your target audience solve a problem or level up their skills, regardless of whether they use your product or service. (And now that you have more insight about your audience via exegraphics, you’re better positioned to deliver content that matters to them.) Creating and distributing free content that is actionable and helps the reader overcome an obstacle positions your company as a trusted thought leader.

Let’s talk about distribution for a minute. This can be tricky. Which channels should you use? Should you gate or ungate your content? The answer is always, it depends. Where does your audience gravitate? What are your goals? These are some questions you should ask yourself. However, consider a mix of channels and ungated content. 

There are benefits of gating content, like immediately capturing an email you can start working. There are also benefits of ungating it. When you ungate content, you make it easier for your audience to find—and easier for them to share. This is a great way for you to fuel brand exposure and start building trust. Once they come to love your content, the barrier to entering an email for a gated piece of content won’t seem like a steep price to pay.

 

Get their contact info

When you’ve identified content pieces to gate (and make sure they’re extremely high quality!), you need to think about the experience and workflow you’re creating with each landing page you build. Building lead capture pages may not seem like a big lift if you’re only putting up a couple of pages a year. But, chances are, if you’re looking to grow your business, you need something more scalable, sophisticated and automated.

That’s where tools like Marketo and HubSpot come in handy. Whether you use their templates or design your own layout, you can quickly spin up a page that aligns with your brand, includes the form fields you need and routes the collected content to your CRM. You can also assign each content piece a different score, and that interaction is tracked and recorded for each lead.

But, don’t stop there. If a prospect doesn’t engage with a piece of content that automatically MQLs them, you’ll want to nurture them by continuing to give them more value.

 

Stay top of mind 

After potential customers become aware of your company, it’s essential to keep your company top of mind. They may not be ready to purchase when they first hear about you, so work on building mindshare so they think of you when they’re looking for a solution to the problem you solve.

Nurture programs can help—and automating them can help you scale. HubSpot and Marketo both include email automation that manage all of this for you. Using email automation, you can set up nurture sequences that not only send your list new content, it will also track engagement that can be used for lead scoring or triggering another series of events. If, for example, a prospect engaged with a specific type of content piece, you could set up a flow into another track of content to give them a more tailored experience. This automated, custom-feeling experience will warm your lead and move them closer to the purchasing stage.

 

How do I know if my marketing automation funnel is working?

We’ve all been there. Implementing a new product is challenging because it’s not always easy to know if it’s working. Thankfully, there is a step-by-step process you can follow to ensure that your new automation is actually working for you and your team.

 

1. Start with your baseline measurement

Every good experiment starts with a baseline measurement. If you don’t take the time to establish where you start, there is no way to ensure that automation is working for your company.

For example, if you are automating your emails, look at past email data. What was the average time it took to get the emails sent out and to collect reporting on their performance? Once you know that number, testing the automation will be easy.

 

2. Create a check-in system

Next, you want to create a check-in system. Automation won’t change your numbers overnight. It’s vital to give this experiment adequate time to work. It’s not all about the first check-in, either. You can’t give up on an automated system after one negative check-in.

Create a spreadsheet for your automation experiment. In the first column, add your baseline measurements. Pick an interval for check-ins, and put those dates in the remaining columns. Check-ins every 30 days should work for most automation programs.

 

3. Compare and contrast

Once you have a few check-ins, you can begin to compare the numbers. Are you doing better? Worse? Are your numbers waffling between good and bad? Talk with your team (both sales and marketing) about their experience with automation. Have these months been easier or harder? You need to grab quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (personal experiences) data around automation.

 

4. Tweak as needed

Once you have the data, you can tweak it as needed or know that your marketing automation funnel is working for your business.

 

Conclusion: Your guide to the marketing automation funnel

Marketing automation is becoming more popular. Investing in automation makes sense as companies move to be more efficient and effective. Whether your organization is big or small, automation can help you build your funnel and close more deals.

If you’re ready to see how marketing automation can help your marketing efforts—starting with the right targets and leads, you need Rev. Contact us and we’ll show you the exegraphics behind your best customers.

B2B sales funnel: Understand and optimize what matters most

A recent Gartner study noted that the B2B purchasing process is complex. While that might not totally take you back, you might be surprised to learn that 77% of B2B buyers reported that their last purchase was complicated. So, let’s take a look at your B2B sales funnel to simplify the buying journey for customers and your sales team. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is a B2B sales funnel?
  • Three B2B sales funnel processes you need to understand
  • The basic stages of a sales funnel
  • How to start above the funnel and solve the first-mile problem
  • Ways to optimize your B2B sales funnel

 

What is a B2B sales funnel?

At its core, a B2B sales funnel is the process businesses use to go from awareness to purchasing a product or service. Sales funnels give you insight into where potential customers are, so you can connect them with the right resources that turn them from prospects to loyal customers.

 

Three B2B sales funnel processes you must understand

The world of B2B sales has nuanced challenges and opportunities, and you need to be aware of them. Your job is to make buying smoother for your prospects. To make it easier, you need to focus on three core areas: B2B buying, selling and marketing.

Buying

According to Gartner, the buying journey can be arduous and full of surprises. When it comes to B2B purchasing decisions, you will likely run into roadblocks because buying is a multi-step process with several layers of approval.

Gartner identifies four main steps to the B2B buying process:

  • Problem identification
  • Solution exploration
  • Requirements building
  • Supplier selection

 

Ultimately, B2B products typically cost thousands of dollars per year. As a result, businesses do not enter into these decisions lightly. You may experience long sales cycles, contract negotiations and other hang-ups while getting a company to sign a contract.

Businesses come in all shapes and sizes. If your company targets small businesses, the buying process will be simpler. There will likely be only one or two people to impress. On the other hand, enterprise customers require a more complex approach with new processes like RFPs (requests for proposals) or vendor surveys.

 

Selling

How your organization approaches the selling process is critical. You have to address fit, but it needs to be easy for prospects. Most B2B sales processes revolve around the demo. How you pitch your product will vary depending on who you are talking with.

For example, you may give a demo to a lower-level employee, demo to a manager/director and then demo to another executive at the company. Each demo needs to touch on different aspects of the product that appeal to that person. Lower-level employees (often the user) want to know about the bells and whistles that will make their lives easier. Executives (often the buyer) want to know how your product will save time or money.

By understanding the various layers of the selling process, your team will be able to sign more contracts.

 

Marketing

Last, companies must understand the marketing process. What makes a person stop what they are doing to read your article, sign up for your free eBook or subscribe to your mailing list? Marketing is a numbers game requiring you to get in front of as many of the right people—your target audience—as possible.

Marketing has two main functions: paid and organic. Paid advertising can be a great way to prove market value quickly, but it can be challenging to sustain. Organic marketing helps your organization cut marketing costs while getting in front of more people. Organic marketing is best because it’s more sustainable for companies who want to cut expenses, but it does take time to establish. Unless you have name recognition offline, you’ll have to build your online presence from scratch.

 

The basic stages of a sales funnel

There’s no such thing as a “right” B2B sales funnel. Every company can—and should—build theirs in a way that best supports their customers and, ultimately, their business. Some sales funnels are simple and others are complex. But, it’s safe to say that many B2B sales funnels have these basic stages:

 

Awareness

Before a company can find value in your product, they need to know that you exist. Awareness is essential to the funnel because prospects can’t turn into customers without this step.

Awareness is mostly a marketing function, but outbound sales reps might also take on part of this process. Marketing raises awareness by creating relevant content, hosting events and generating press. Outbound sales professionals develop awareness at a much smaller scale through one-on-one conversations with prospects they think will be a good fit.

 

Consideration

After a person becomes aware of your brand, they start to consider what your organization can do for them. Prospects don’t always enter the consideration stage right away. They have to need your product offering first. Consideration happens as prospects are continually introduced to your company. Prospects in the consideration stage may reach out for more detailed information like whitepapers or demos of your product.

 

Intent

Next, buyers start to show intent, which means they do their final research to ensure you are the right company. Prospects might ask for more in-depth demos, pricing information and references for other successful customers. At the end of the intent phase, companies will let you know they are ready to sign a contract.

 

Purchase

Now that a prospect has signed a contract, they have become customers. Many organizations offer a trial period or a money-back guarantee. Customers are testing your service, working with your success team and implementing your solution. Customers in the purchase phase are learning a lot and deciding their next steps.

 

Retention

In an ideal world, you can retain your customers. Creating a loyal customer base is helpful because it allows you to build your revenue sustainably. Customer retention also leads to more business because happy customers tell their friends and colleagues about your company.

 

Solve the first-mile problem in sales—above the funnel

At Rev, we realized there was a fundamental problem in the current B2B sales funnel, and it started at the top. When the wrong leads entered the funnel, every step after was wasted, draining companies of time and resources on leads that wouldn’t budge. Even worse, they were missing five-star opportunities altogether.

By knowing what makes your best customers fit and ready, you can focus your time on the prospects that are most likely to close. Wondering how to identify a customer that’s ready to hear your pitch?

Here’s how some of the best sales and marketing teams use our AI-powered Sales Development Platform to find their next best customer:

 

1. Start with a seed list

First, our stellar customer success team partners with you to compile and enter your seed list in our Sales Development Platform. The seed list is a necessary part of the process because it’s what our AI analyzes and pattern matches against. If you put in poor-fit companies, you’ll receive a target list that looks the same way. To avoid this, we sit down with you to go over your list and make sure it’s filled with the best companies.

Our customers often give us a list of their favorite or best-fit customers. Some of our customers are new or diving into a new market. For those customers, we work to determine who the best-fit customers are in their industry.

 

2. Build an aiCP

Once you’ve entered your seed list, our Sales Development Platform goes to work. It looks at the deep, behavioral characteristics of your customers, what we call exegraphics, and builds you an aiCP (AI-powered ideal customer profile). Unlike a traditional ICP snapshot often rooted in firmographics, the aiCP is dynamic and gives you deep insight into how a company operates.

Our Sales Development platform has data for more than 6 million companies and 500+ exegraphic lenses. This  helps you understand your customers and prospects beyond headcount and headquarters location. When you use Rev’s exegraphics, you get robust information about what makes your seed list unique and valuable.

The exegraphic data you get from Rev would be stellar on its own, but we take it a step further.

 

3. Create a target list your sales team will love

Next, our Sales Development Platform uses the aiCP as a blueprint and looks for other companies that look and act like your best customers. It then builds a prioritized target account list based on the exegraphics you uncover from your seed list. Our platform looks for bullseye companies, or companies that exhibit the patterns and behaviors that show a high propensity to engage..

When you see your target account list, you’ll find more than just bullseye companies. Rev wants you to uncover the gamut of companies that could be a great fit, so we share companies with different layers of fit and readiness. Many of our customers use Rev data across sales and marketing. Sales take the best fit leads, while marketing warms up the colder opportunities.

 

4. Plug your list where you need it most

Sales are already complicated. We don’t want to make your life harder. We have a stellar list of integrations with companies you love, like Salesforce, Hubspot and Marketo. Once you have your list, you’ll easily be able to export the information to software your sales and marketing team members already use.

There’s no need to have your sales and marketing team undergo another training. 

 

5. Rinse and repeat

Before Rev, understanding the ideal customer profile was a huge undertaking. There was so much data that needed to be collected and digested. Humans can only take in so much information. ICPs were often reaffirmed once a year or less, which made them outdated as products and companies developed. There is no reason companies can’t be flexible and agile when it comes to their ideal customer.

One of the best parts about Rev’s aiCP is that it constantly evolves. You can make changes to your company’s aiCP monthly or quarterly. As a result, your sales team can make better decisions, tap into companies that make sense at the moment and close more deals in the process.

 

Five ways to optimize the B2B sales funnel

While the B2B buying process can feel complex, there are specific things you can do to optimize it. Ultimately, your organization must be able to anticipate the needs of your audience. What information does your audience need to feel comfortable spending money on your product/service? By providing those details upfront, you can reduce buying friction.

 

1. Have a clear understanding of your ideal customer

One of the best ways to optimize the B2B sales funnel is to know your ideal customer inside and out. When employees understand the ideal customer, they can think like them. Getting inside your ideal customer’s head leads to better content, well-designed sales outreach and meaningful conversations.

 

2. Help sales and marketing professionals visualize the funnel

It can be challenging to optimize the sales funnel if your team doesn’t understand the value. Sales and marketing leaders must do the work to help their team visualize the B2B sales funnel. Why is it important? How do they contribute to the funnel? What pieces of the funnel does the company need to strengthen? Make using a funnel practical for all of your revenue operations and go-to-market team members.

 

3. Create straightforward, helpful content and collateral to improve lead flow

Content is the backbone of your B2B sales funnel. The content you create can push people through the funnel and make people more likely to purchase your product. Marketing and sales should collaborate to understand what potential prospects need so sales teams can sign deals.

You should use a mix of gated and ungated content to bring new prospects into the funnel. The gated vs. ungated debate has been raging amongst marketers for a while, but gated content does help your company collect more email addresses and MQLs.

 

4. Focus on credibility through reviews and case studies

B2B buyers talk within the niche, and everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses. If you’re going to optimize your sales funnel, start by leveraging your current customers.

It’s vital to leverage review sites like G2 and Capterra. These sites get millions of visitors every year. Your ideal buyers visit sites like this to get a sense of the players in your niche. You want to have a presence on these sites, so team up with your customer success department to drive reviews.

Another way you can boost credibility is by focusing on your case studies. Case studies are an in-depth look at one of your best customers. You can dive deep into their problem and how your product or service solved it. While potential customers realize that these are advertisements for your brand, a well-written case study can make the sales process much easier.

 

5. Look outside of your niche for brand inspiration

Is your brand a leader or a follower? Often companies get stuck in a cycle of being too late to trends because they spend more time following what others do. If you want to optimize your funnel, try something another company outside your niche is doing. For example, you could try some B2C sales strategies or find strategies that work for another B2B niche to see if they might work for your company. 

 

Buying is fairly similar across the board, so it’s okay to do something that’s never been done in your niche before.

 

How is a B2B funnel different from B2C?

Last, let’s wrap up by sharing how B2B funnels differ from B2C funnels. While B2C buyers go through many of the same phases as B2B buyers, the funnel is typically sped up.

Consumers don’t have to spend nearly as much time going through each stage, and the middle stages of the funnel are often condensed. In a B2C purchase, there are typically far fewer hoops to jump through. For most consumer purchases, there is only one buyer, with the exception of larger purchases like a car or a house.

Overall, businesses do much more diligence when purchasing a product or service.

 

It’s time to build a better B2B sales funnel with Rev

At Rev, we’ve spent countless hours building a deeper understanding of the sales funnel. While traditional sales funnels can make revenue, something is missing. Rev helps companies like Oracle go above the funnel by addressing the fit and readiness of potential prospects.

If you’re ready to improve your company’s B2B sales funnel, contact us. We’d be more than happy to show you how our Sales Development Platform works and give you a sample list of targets for the exegraphics you care about most.

Automated lead generation: What you need to know to get started

You probably spend an excessive amount of time chasing leads down. Lead generation is a never ending necessity for businesses, especially for companies trying to grow. (And, what company isn’t?) Because of this, you might feel like you’re starting at ground zero month after month.

As your organization grows, you need to  find ways to bring in more leads while reducing the workload of finding them. It’s all about efficiency and scale. Lead generation becomes unsustainable if you don’t invest in the right technology. That’s where automated lead generation comes in.

Let’s dive into what automated lead generation is, the benefits your organization will receive and tips on making it work for you.

 

What is automated lead generation?

To understand what automated lead generation is, let’s first go back to basics. What is lead generation? Lead generation is the process of finding new prospective customers and markets to sell your products or services to..

Automated lead generation often uses AI technology to give you more relevant leads. Automation doesn’t have to use AI technology, though. Automated lead generation can also  be finding ways to save time and grab attention. For example, you might use an automation tool to send emails or messages on your behalf.

 

What are some of the benefits of automated lead generation services?

Before we dive into some automated lead generation strategies, let’s cover a few benefits of automation. The thought of using artificial intelligence or automation can feel overwhelming. Some teams may worry that AI will replace sales and marketing teams, but typically the benefits of automation outweigh the negatives.

 

Automation saves time

When companies use automation, one of their main reasons is to save time. Lead generation can be a time-consuming process that involves several steps.

First, companies need to do the math to understand how many leads they must bring in during a given month. Once the number of leads is determined, sales and marketing typically ideate the campaigns and strategies they will use to reach that number. Then, they start executing on their plan, turning targets into leads.

Sales and marketing teams pour over prospects on sites like LinkedIn and inside company databases. Finding people to reach out to can be exhausting, and it doesn’t always lead to success. Sometimes teams can spend hours getting a list of targets together, only to be hit with dead ends, wrong numbers or people who aren’t ready to purchase.

When companies can automate some aspects of this process, whether that’s finding or reaching out to contacts, they save time and money.

 

Automation frees sales and marketing teams up for less repetitive work

Besides saving time, automation also frees sales and marketing up to work on valuable projects. If a task or process  is repetitive, it can most likely be automated. When sales and marketing teams can farm out repetitive tasks, they can focus on the one-on-one work that turns prospects into customers.

Automation can help your company with tasks like:

  • Finding potential customers to reach out to
  • Sending out the initial messages to prospects
  • Booking meetings
  • Meeting preparation
  • Post meeting follow-up

 

Automation frees up sales and marketing expenses

Lead generation is expensive for many companies. Most of your marketing budget might even be going to lead generation. When funds are tied up in lead generation, it leaves little room for other activities like sales and marketing development or brand building. Companies need to get out of the expensive lead generation race and make better use of the smarketing budget.

When you automate certain aspects of the lead generation process, you’ll undoubtedly free up hours from sales and marketing, saving money. For example, our customer Oracle noted a lower cost per lead and more efficient opportunity creation when they used Rev to source leads.

 

Automation can spot trends early

One of the best parts of using automated lead generation tools is their trendspotting ability. Automated tools use a wide array of information to make business decisions and understand whom to connect with.

In a recent episode of The AI For Sales Podcast, our CEO Jonathan Spier discussed how our sales development platform helps companies, “​​The opportunity of AI is to see more really good patterns early. In our case, it’s seeing who’s a good person to purchase before they even know to show intent yet. That’s where AI is just super exciting for the sales process.”

 

10 helpful automated lead generation tips

So, you’re interested in automating your lead generation activities. How do you go from thinking about it to automating your lead gen process? Let’s dive into ten strategies that will help you get started.

 

1. Build a reliable lead source tracker

Before diving into automated lead generation, you must ensure that leads are tracked appropriately. Your client relationship manager or CRM should track where leads are coming from, but your tool may struggle as lead sources become more complex.

For example, sometimes a client is in your CRM, but automation may help reenergize that lead. What will show up in your CRM as a lead source if this happens?

There are many strategies to understand attribution. Most often, companies use first or last touch attribution. These simple strategies say the credit goes to whatever added the lead or whatever last helped the lead turn into a sale. Many companies use a multi-touch attribution model, which strives to share attribution across as many channels or people who played a role in the sale’s success.

Whichever model you choose, it’s essential to be consistent and ensure your CRM can handle everything. Keeping up with attribution will help you understand the impact that automated lead generation has (or doesn’t have) on your sales journey.

 

2. Create multiple opt-in opportunities

One of the best ways to convert leads is to send them a relevant content piece. Opt-ins are typically sent behind a gate, encouraging a prospect to enter their email address to get the information.

When someone gives you an email address (or any other details about them), they’re putting their trust in you. While email opt-ins or freebies can make it easier to get leads, they have to be worth it. Prospects are particular about what they sign up for and stay subscribed to. Therefore, your opt-in should have a stellar landing page. When someone starts to read it, they should be just as impressed.

Here are some relevant opt-ins that will make prospects want to give you their email address:

  • Consultative calls to solve a specific industry problem
  • Courses that cover a hot-button industry topic
  • eBooks with insights from industry influencers
  • Webinars or panels with leading experts
  • Industry reports with proprietary data

 

3. Optimize the landing pages you send leads to

Before you send leads to any landing page, you must consider the experience prospects will have when they get there. When your automated systems send prospects to landing pages, your sales team may not always be able to drop things and assist if things go awry. Take your time and review your landing page before sending it out.

Here are some steps you can take to optimize your landing pages:

  • Pare down your landing page so that prospects can focus on your call-to-action
  • Ensure the landing page copy matches the copy you use to attract visitors to avoid confusion
  • Create a focused lead form by asking for the bare necessities and supplementing data with artificial intelligence after opt-in
  • Test your landing page on desktops, mobile devices and tablets to ensure everyone has a smooth viewing experience
  • Proofread the copy one last time to make sure everything is clear and free of spelling errors

 

4. Always test your copy

A/B testing is an integral part of automated lead generation. Small things can make an enormous difference, and you want to ensure your organization uses the best copy available.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when A/B testing is changing too much at once. Split testing only works when you can understand what improvement made a difference. Tweak a photo, headline or call to action. Keep it simple.

You can test landing pages, email/outreach copy, advertising copy and more. Anything you use to bring in new leads can likely be tweaked with A/B testing.

 

5. Consider your automated persona

When you automate your lead generation process, you often have to use a persona to do it. Sometimes you use your general brand persona, but usually, you are using your marketing or sales team to be the face of your brand. What will potential customers see when they look at an email signature or check out a social media profile? Most potential customers will want to learn more about the company or the salesperson they are speaking with.

You should work with your website and social media team to ensure that your website and social media profiles are active if you plan to use those during the automation process. You should also work with specific team members to ensure their social media profiles and web presence look professional and well-utilized.

 

6. Use relevant messaging in your campaigns

When connecting with prospects, you want to focus on what you are saying. Conversion is more than a number. Conversion is about building a deep connection with potential customers. If your message isn’t relevant to what your potential customers are dealing with, they’ll move on to a company that gets it.

Wrapping your mind around relevant messaging can be daunting, but it starts with connecting with prospects and current customers.

  • Talk to your customers and prospects to see what language they use
  • Survey your audience to understand the trends and issues they are dealing with
  • Create a Facebook, LinkedIn or Slack group so you can hang out with your customers and people in your ideal audience
  • Check out sites like Reddit or Twitter, where your ideal audience already hangs out and has conversations
  • Listen to sales calls to understand why prospects decide to reach out and learn more about your brand

Doing this research should give you a clear idea of what your message should look like. By researching what is most often said or discussed, you’ll be better positioned to understand what your audience needs from you.

 

7. Focus resources and attention on remarketing

Remarketing or retargeting is one of the best advertising tools companies can use. According to a survey by Ascend, 34% of marketers use paid advertising/retargeting during the lead nurturing process. Companies use remarketing to get back in front of their ideal customers.

The remarketing process is simple. Companies like Google and Facebook allow you to install tracking pixels on your website. From there, you can retarget people who have visited certain pages or performed specific actions on your website. Pixels are often used in B2C marketing to reduce cart abandonment, but these strategies can also be used in B2B marketing.

Prospects may not respond to your automated outreach right away, but over time they might. Retargeting lets your company stay top of mind while potential customers consider how they can use your product or service.

 

8. Use the right tools

Automated lead generation is a challenge for companies. If you don’t use the right tools, you risk creating an uncanny valley for prospects, especially if you use artificial intelligence. You need to utilize tools that feel like a helpful addition to a prospect’s life, not a burden.

We’ve previously shared some of our favorite AI tools for lead generation. When picking an AI or automation tool, you must consider which areas of the process you and your clients are comfortable automating. For example, you might not want to automate outreach, but you may feel comfortable automating the research process.

Automation is still relatively new, so you don’t have to push the envelope. Instead, understand where the boundaries are for your company and stick to them.

 

9. Build a cadence for connecting with automated leads

If you plan to use an AI tool for outreach, connecting with automated leads can get complicated. With your automation tool taking center stage, you might add too many cooks in the kitchen when sales reps get involved.

Creating a communication cadence for the automation tool and your employees is crucial to building a successful lead generation process.

Here are some questions you might want to ask your sales team:

  • How often does the automation tool reach out to prospects? What does it say?
  • When you get a response from a human, when should a sales team member step in and take over the conversation?
  • Once the sales team takes over, when does the automation tool get shut off?
  • If the sales team loses contact, does the automation tool get turned on again?
  • When is it time to stop connecting if there isn’t a response?

 

10. Don’t abandon other lead sources

Automation is a tool in your box, but it’s not the only way to gather leads. Other sources like inbound leads can be just as powerful. Consider how you can beef up other lead sources as you use automated strategies.

Here are a few lead sources that you can try:

  • Create content to boost your organic results on search engines
  • Send regular monthly newsletters to engage people in your database
  • Hold webinars and events with other companies in your industry
  • Go to industry conferences and tradeshows to meet potential clients
  • Build an organic presence on social media sites like LinkedIn
  • Invest in a referral program to encourage current customers to share your business
  • Work with influencers in your niche to promote your brand

Bottom line: Automated lead generation with Rev

Today, we took an in-depth look at automated lead generation and what it can do for your business. There are many reasons why your team might be interested in automation. Maybe your sales team is struggling to keep up with lead generation goals, or perhaps you want to use your marketing budget better. Automation is the perfect way to future-proof your business, ensuring you can get in front of the right people every month.

 

If you are ready to start automating your lead generation process, consider Rev. We have all the tools you need to transform prospecting from a manual, random and frustrating experience to a scientific and precise process. We’ve built a database of 6 million companies and counting. Our strategic approach helps you understand the exegraphics behind your best customers. From there, we can help you find your next best leads to grow your pipeline efficiently. If this sounds like a process you need, request a demo today.

​​Why your cold outreach sucks (and what to do about it)

Cold sales outreach catches a bad rap for good reasons. A lot of people don’t enjoy receiving cold calls and sales pitch emails. Plus, a lot of sales reps aren’t particularly genuine about making those connections.

We find that a lot of the advice out there about how to improve your SDR prospecting is obvious at best, demeaning at worst. And, when everyone is following the same advice (like “call just before lunchtime”), you’re lacking any positive differentiator from all the other sales callers out there.

At Rev, we believe there’s a better way to conduct cold outreach. It starts above the funnel in how you build your target lists, the ways you use that information to connect with prospects and how you ease the process for your potential customers.

Let’s look at three of the big reasons your current cold outreach isn’t great—and the solutions to make it better.

 

You’re targeting accurate but superficial lookalikes. 

Your most fruitful approach to cold outreach is to find prospects that mirror your organization’s ideal customer profile. So you take a look at your company’s best existing customers and cultivate a list of ICPs. Then, if you’re like many of us, you basically Google lookalike companies.

It’s not the worst place to start. Think “largest outdoor adventure companies in Denver.” Or “mid-size advertising firms in New York.” You’ll learn about a bunch of companies you’ve never heard of, find their best points-of-contact and get to work reaching out.

But the problem is that these firmographics (e.g. industry, workforce/team size, geography, annual revenue and so on) are not necessarily the telltale indicators of why your best customers are your best customers. Firmographics also don’t demonstrate whether or not a company is ready to buy.

Companies that match in their firmographics can still be misaligned in their attitudes, behaviors and readiness.

 

Solution: Dig beyond firmographics into exegraphics. 

You can improve your cold-call KPIs when you develop a more thorough understanding of who your most likely customers are. It might take you fifty calls to land one meeting going off firmographics. But it will likely take you much fewer calls if you can understand how lookalike companies operate under the hood.

We at Rev call this information exegraphics: pieces of data or characteristics that convey how a company executes its mission. How a company projects itself to the world in its messaging and value propositions, as well as how it acts internally (such as the size of its software development team, the rate of growth of its HR department or its early adoption of new technologies).

Two similar-looking companies, it turns out, can act very differently:

Our Sales Development Platform uses AI to surface exegraphic data on millions of companies, but you could also gather similar data with the help of a dedicated data science team. It might require some excavation of LinkedIn profiles and job boards. It likely calls for some dot-connecting, since very few companies announce their internal operations quite so publicly. (Though sometimes they do!)

In the end, you’ll compile a stronger sense of prospects’ operations and needs before you reach out to them. You’ll have a better sense of if and how your company’s products and offerings can assist them. And you’ll position yourself to make a more relevant and immediate impact upon first (or second, or fifth) contact.

 

In order to reach more prospects, you veer too impersonal.

We get it: cold-calling is often a numbers game. The more contacts you reach out to, the more hits you’ll score. And the ones you miss are no-harm-no-foul.

But what if it’s not a numbers game? What if it’s a quality game more than a quantity game?

Cold outreach has a bad name because of all the times it’s done badly. Generic calls and emails can sound like spam (at best) and frauds (at worst). Some cold-callers might as well say, “Hi, stranger. You don’t know me, but why don’t you let me solve all your problems!”

You are trying to solve their problems. But you don’t have to sound like a stranger, even though you haven’t met yet. And your first cold outreach can still feel warm.

 

Solution: Take a beat to personalize your outreach. 

There’s a reason that every email marketing platform on the planet allows you to insert a contact’s first name: it automatically personalizes the communication, even if everyone knows it’s automated.

You can take this same idea and dial it up to 11. You already have exegraphic data on your target companies. It’s worth the extra effort to connect with your contact person, too.

Sometimes, this works out as a shared personal connection. Maybe you went to the same university: “I saw on LinkedIn that you also attended State. Go Mascot!” Or, perhaps you’ve experienced their work: “I heard you discuss sales strategies on my favorite podcast last month, and it’s changed how I approach new clients.” So long as the information is public knowledge, and your connection genuine, this can take a cold outreach from the “read and ignore later” pile to the “I’ll read what this person has to say” level. (Saying where you found the info can prevent you from sounding weirdly creepy or intrusive.)

Other times, the connection is completely at the company level—“We use your software in our department and have seen increased productivity each month. We love what you’re doing.”

The social selling approach means you can make connections before actually reaching out the first time. You could follow a contact on Twitter if they post commentary or articles relevant to your field; or, your company account might share a helpful post from that company’s blog. Mentioning what you found helpful never hurts in that first contact—“We shared your post on our team Slack and still reference it in our weekly standup.” 

All that said, don’t overdo it. A one-line humanizing statement is usually all you need to personalize your communication; then, get to the point. Also, you can personalize according to the likelihood of that particular relationship paying off. If your contact is in the C-suite or another decision-making role, consider personalizing each of your follow-ups. If, however, they’re a lower-level employee further removed from financial decisions, you can perhaps personalize the initial contact and go with a more automated followup approach.

 

You think your potential customers have their act together.

Guess what? They don’t. They’re just like all too many of us: overwhelmed, stressed and bombarded with information. If they knew they needed your help and had the time to do something about it, they’d be calling you.

It’s also likely that no one person on the customer’s side of things has the ability to take control of addressing the company’s issues. Harvard Business Review identified a jump in the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases from an average of 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 in 2017, and it’s reasonable to presume that number has not gone down in the intervening years.

You’re probably not reaching out cold to 6 or 7 people in a given company (and rightfully so). You’re hoping to make meaningful contact with one representative, who can then advocate for purchasing your solution with the rest of their team—who will, again according to HBR, have “divergence in organizational priorities” that “makes it difficult for buying groups to agree to anything more than ‘move cautiously,’ ‘avoid risk’ and ‘save money.’”

If you believe in the solution you’re selling—and you should—it’s easy to presume that a prospect in need will want to act on that need. After all, standard practice is to let the prospect voice their own problems and connect their own dots with your product or service.

The more information you can give your prospect—the closer you can place those dots—the better convinced they will be, and the better they can convince the rest of their organization! Right?

Not so much.

 

Solution: Make your outreach less responsive and more prescriptive.

When your cold outreach results in a warm connection, it’s tempting to respond to every pain point with how you can help soothe it. Focused communication shows you and your company are active listeners and responsive problem-solvers. You’re offering customized, personalized solutions. That feels helpful!

But too much information and too many choices actually makes things harder on your prospect. By tapping into exegraphic data, you have a much higher chance of offering solutions to problems they don’t even know they have yet.

Nick Toman, Brent Adamson and Cristina Gomez, writing at HBR, evaluated how a responsive sales approach reduced the ease of purchase, whereas a “proactive, prescriptive approach increased purchase ease by 86%.”

You can think of it this way: Offering a prospect a range of options gives them one more set of decisions to make in their already decision-strained lives. Coming into the conversation as a subject matter expert with the confidence and authority to present your prospect with clear, actionable steps establishes you not only as a salesperson, but as an ally. 

We all want someone to take care of our problems for us. You can be that person, or at least the person facilitating it, for your prospect. And it makes the sales decision easy for your contact. You’ve presented both a solution and a roadmap with common obstacles (gleaned in large part from your past customers), including how you’ll help make this solution a reality.

 

Final thoughts: A sale needs to be easy for the customer, not for you.

An easy sale is a holy grail. But it’s not pure happenstance. An easy sale, attained in a repeatable and sustainable way, requires your effort before you ever hit send or dial a number.

Following these solutions, your cold outreach is cold only in the sense that it is unsolicited. You’ve already come to a greater understanding of your contacts’ businesses and their probable needs. You’re already ready to present them not with an opportunity, not with a sales pitch, but with empathy for their problems and a readiness to assist.

The sale should be easy for your prospects—you’re making the effort to connect with them on a personal and/or a company level. You understand how their business operates. And you’re ready to hold their hand throughout the process.

The sale itself might look easy to others. Why shouldn’t it? You’ve just turned a cold call into a human interaction, one that customers are more likely to respond to with a purchase, yes, but also with more satisfaction, less regret and a greater willingness to return to you for other solutions.

Now that definitely doesn’t suck.

What are exegraphics?

Straight up, the B2B world does not get measured and tracked the same as the B2C world. Years ago, consumer sales vendors used to track just demographics. Today, they know a ridiculous amount beyond your age, your gender or your location: the large data attractors (think Amazon or Google) can predict what you’ll want to buy, before you know it yourself.

There is no such thing in the B2B world. No giant data attractor for companies that want to know what other companies need. No way to predict who the most likely, or most ideal, customers for a product or service will be.

So at Rev we decided to construct that information ourselves. A deep picture about companies—what they produce, how they behave, how they work—helps our customers to identify other potential clients much like the way the e-commerce giants can target you as an individual consumer.

Anything you could want to know about a company, we call an exegraphic: a piece of information or a characteristic that conveys how a company executes its mission.

Let’s take a look at what exactly exegraphics are, and how they help companies like yours find more and better prospects, faster.

 

Exegraphics capture how a company projects itself to the world.

Exegraphics require us to look at companies in two major ways. The first is, what does a company say about itself? All companies make promises (both explicit and implicit) to their market about what their goods and services can accomplish, how they conduct themselves, and what stands them apart from their competition.

This external facet captures both functional language and messaging: both what a company says and how it says it. Essentially, our models take in however a business communicates its value to the public. We generally capture this information on company websites and social media platforms, as well as other similar sources.

The difference between collecting firmographics and collecting exegraphics is their depth. Just as B2C companies have moved from demographics to psychographics, B2B needs to shift from firmographics to exegraphics. 

No large or successful B2C company would be satisfied with making decisions based merely on demographics anymore. Psychographics simply tell a better story about where a consumer is positioned. Exegraphics do the same thing for B2B companies: they extend beyond firmographics not only to tell you the industry a company is in, but also to show you how it positions itself—and how they operate—within that industry.

 

Exegraphics puzzle out how a company functions on the inside.

The second major way exegraphics require us to look at a company is, how does it function on the inside? This one is less immediately apparent. Most companies don’t publish how large their legal team is, or how fast their software department is scaling. And these things are not always discernible from external projections.

Think of it like this: two companies can be in the same field, offering competing services. One does it with an army of people, and the other does it with five AI engineers and a bunch of robots. One of these companies might be your ideal candidate, and the other a worthless lead.

Exegraphics get to the difference by looking inside. Our model turns to professional networking sites and similar platforms to build a sense of who works at a company—what are their functions? their responsibilities? their skills? their professional backgrounds? It also looks at job postings to determine what the company is asking for in potential employees.

Whereas the first way exegraphics look at companies focuses on a company’s position in its industry and the value it offers to its market, this one focuses on the functions of people within the company, and how those functions are built, sized and prioritized.

 

Exegraphics figure out these things millions of times to place companies among their peers.

A human being with time and the internet could do that work for a single company. In a day, a team might be able to assemble information for a hundred. But to be of any significant use, you need to do it for the thousands upon thousands of companies in existence. Rev uses a mix of powerful AI technologies to undertake the sense-making by doing what a human would do, millions of times over: read websites, resumes, and job postings to create a clear picture of any characteristic of what a company does and how they do it—then compiling how individual prospects compare to their aggregated peers.

What industry a company is in is a firmographic. So is the fraction of people at that company who are in the legal function. Now, the model looks at the peers—same industry, same basic size—and evaluates if the legal team is about what you’d expect, way bigger or way smaller. And bam! You have an exegraphic that helps you understand that potential customer’s position.

Context matters for any exegraphic. You have to know what peer group you’re comparing to in order for exegraphics to matter. For example, you’d expect a large software team at a software company. But at a dog-walking service, one developer means that company is probably a software giant compared to its peers. Same for other considerations—slow growth in one industry might be massive growth in another. Or, one company scaling when others in its industry are contracting might offer you valuable insights into their behavior.

 

Exegraphics account for change over time.

Comparing peers tells you the relative bench strength of a company in distinct functional areas. Exegraphics can also account for how those strengths have changed and are changing.

Let’s say that you’re selling cloud-based accounting solutions. You’ve identified a bunch of growing prospects. Great—growth is one such exegraphic. Now you can identify the ones whose accounting departments are actually shrinking. These accountants might be overwhelmed; maybe they need new solutions, or maybe it’s hard to hire good accountants in their area and they need something to change.

Now you’ve identified clients who not only fit your audience, but who also have a reasonably demonstrable need for your services.

In this way, you can think of any exegraphic having a characteristic called speed or velocity. How quickly does it change, and in what direction? On an individual level, change is constantly happening. Companies hire and fire people all the time, and workers move between jobs. But looking at groups over time, exegraphics can identify trends within a single company and relate them to shifts across an industry.

Exegraphics can also identify sudden changes. We’ve developed new data sources around funding, for example. Companies that close a round of venture capital have loads more money in the bank overnight. But those kinds of changes don’t happen that often; sudden hiring changes do, however, especially in scaling companies. 

For instance, an emerging Acme Inc. is probably growing their marketing team right now. They’ll have a lot of new hires, and the average tenure will be pretty low. That would be good to know if you wanted to sell them your marketing solution—Acme finally has people who can use this stuff, and marketing is clearly a growing priority for them. And if it’s a priority, they might spend some money to do it right.

That’s the premise and the value of examining change through exegraphics.

 

Exegraphics stack multiple factors to identify top target accounts.

Each single exegraphic can feel pretty powerful to hold. You’ve just identified how many software engineers a whole bunch of companies have. You’ve even identified which ones are growing most rapidly. It’s like magic.

It’s also not a full solution. Individual exegraphics are really handy for getting your first grasp of the concept. But relying on isolated exegraphics will always have limitations. Instead, you want to stack several of them together to get a more multi-dimensional identification of top target accounts.

For starters: not only do you want a team with a need for your product—you want one with the funding to buy what you’re offering.

It turns out humans are really bad at considering multiple factors at once, combining them in a way that makes sense. Humans want to make rules. In or out. Yes or no. What our exegraphic models do instead is weigh the evidence and determine what is worth more points to your query, and what’s worth less, to deliver a more nuanced, inclusive understanding of how companies operate.

 

Exegraphics deliver you companies that look (and act) like your very best customers.

You’ve already got your best customers. The ones you wish every new customer could be like. But you may not know all the reasons why these are your best customers. What are their defining characteristics?

After you feed our Sales Development Platform the Seed List of your very best existing customers, it creates an aiCP (essentially, a lookalike model) to tap into, say, fifty or sixty exegraphic characteristics of those companies and figures out what traits they share. You don’t need to know what the data patterns are—the AI will identify them.

Then the model finds other companies whose combinations of distinctive exegraphics are comparable to your best customers. Essentially, it solves your give-me-more-like-these problem, a million times closer to instantaneously than a human team could manage, and in complex ways that humans simply can’t.

 

Exegraphics let you drive.

Rev’s AI doesn’t think like a human being. It creates and evaluates exegraphics with a points-based system. It also doesn’t make all the final decisions for you: rather, the model translates its points-based system into terms we humans can understand—industries, functions, growth rates, things like that. Once the model finds your lookalikes, you can define and apply lenses to whittle down the prospect list with your own considerations in mind.

To aid in that process, Rev’s exegraphic data and lookalike technology also lets you know which exegraphics are the most defining characteristics of your best-fit accounts. Once you have your list of more-like-these, you can use both exegraphics and traditional firmographics to sort or filter target lists to fit your sales and marketing goals and processes.

Just as an example—perhaps you want to focus on potential customers within a certain region. You can filter the results by geography. Or, you want to see which lookalikes are at a particular size. Easy.

The possibilities really are limitless. If you can dream up something you’d like to know about companies, our tool can take a credible shot at it for you. It’s a unique and valuable offering in the world of B2B commerce, where for too long we’ve been driving in the dark.

Want to see how exegraphics work? Schedule a demo, and we’ll show you our 500+ exegraphic lenses and show you how you can create your own.