For B-to-B marketers, identifying high-quality leads is becoming increasingly difficult in the modern business environment, for several reasons:
- Trendy job titles, like "Design Ninja" or "Chief Product Evangelist," are becoming commonplace, even in traditional industries, as companies try to convey a more creative and edgy culture. This makes it incredibly difficult to determine job roles and responsibilities—and exactly whom you should be targeting—within the company.
- Job-hopping is now an acceptable norm and is sometimes even encouraged, with some individuals changing job titles, departments or even employers every few months. Traditional, static and pay-per-lead databases simply can't keep up, which means a good portion of the contact data they provide is already out-of-date when you receive it.
- People frequently lie on Web registration forms. Content marketing programs often require leads to fill in contact details in order to download the latest whitepaper, report or other material. But, about half of buyers admit to fibbing about their job titles or company names, which fills your database with inaccuracies that waste your sales teams' time and energy.
These facts of modern business life create a nightmare for B-to-B marketers and sales teams trying to run efficient, effective lead-gen programs. Even with conventional titles and guaranteed-accurate data, identifying the ideal buyer within any organization can be difficult. The role of the chief technology officer (CTO), business analyst or human resources director vary from one organization to the next, as could the decision-making ability or influence that individual may have over purchasing decisions.
Marketing and sales teams need a more accurate, real-time and insightful way to identify their most valuable prospects. Surprisingly, the social sphere—professional networking sites, forums and other user-generated content platforms—provide a rich repository of accurate and actionable data about the people, their roles, job functions and value as potential lead targets. In fact, tapping into this valuable social data can even give you the ability to predictively target and score potential leads based on their likelihood to buy. How?
- Put your ear to the listening post: Listening in to conversations among key target audiences in the social sphere can give you direct, firsthand insight into their needs, desires and challenges. Perhaps a potential target is ranting in an industry forum about your competitor's product not serving company needs. Or maybe an individual who downloaded your e-book is now asking questions of existing customers, looking for product feedback to help make a buying decision.
- Understand job roles: Investigating potential targets' social profiles can give you much greater insight into their skills, expertise and what they really do for the company. For example, maybe the "Marketing Administrator" is really the social media expert within the company, or the "Helpdesk Technician" actually plays a key role in software procurement. Examining these subjective details can amplify your lead qualification process.
- Identify correlations: Perhaps you've discovered from your existing customers that many (or all) who have purchased your product or service also use another. But convincing another company to hand over its customer list to your sales team is unlikely. However, by tapping into the social sphere surrounding your shared target audiences, you can identify these individuals—either by the skills included in their profiles or online conversations between peers—and qualify and score them based on this correlation.
The best part about tapping into the social sphere to improve lead-gen efforts is the fact that the data is more accurate, thorough and genuine. Because many people use professional networking sites to market their skills, the profiles and data are cultivated, continuously updated and authentic. After all, few would have the nerve to inflate their credentials or lie about their skills in a public forum in plain view of their bosses or colleagues.
Of course, the challenge in pursuing this strategy is in both efficiency and scale. You could spend hours meticulously researching each lead one-by-one, but that would take time, resources and money you probably don't have and destroy the ROI. The answer? Automation.