While there’s nearly an endless array of marketing channels and tactics these days, generating qualified leads is still a big struggle as ever before.
Here at Socedo, generating high quality leads that sales can close is our number one challenge. Here’s why:
- Our revenue target is increasingly significantly each month
- Our sales team is expanding quickly
- Our product is in a new category of marketing technology
- We have a marketing team of four and limited budget
So, how does our marketing team achieve sustained growth month over month? In this post, we’ve opened up the kimono to share with you how we’ve structured our marketing team, our priorities and the processes we’ve created to scale our operations. We’ll also share the top lessons we’ve learned this year on how to make the most out of limited resources to convert leads into high value customers.
Charter 1: Put individuals in charge of each stage of your marketing funnel
You can’t grow a business without growing your database of leads. The marketing team at Socedo is responsible for generating a certain number of Marketing Qualified Leads each month and a number of Opportunities for the sales team. Everyone’s individual activities contribute to achieving this goal and owns a subset of metrics related to the MQL number.
To reach our monthly MQL goal, we break down our marketing activities by funnel stages and put one or two people in charge of each of these stages.
Top of the Funnel (Brand Awareness & Thought Leadership)
Getting our name out there in front of B2B marketers requires a concerted effort. There’s a lot of things we could be doing, but because we have a small team, we’ve decided to focus on just a few activities that drive the most targeted traffic and new visitors to our website.
A recent study from Demand Metric found that organizations that have multiple part-time staff or multiple full time staff achieve the greatest social media effectiveness. Here at Socedo, we have two people who are dedicated to our social media marketing efforts part-time. One person takes the lead on our organic social media effort, while the other one oversees our campaigns in Socedo.
At this point, we’ve built a large social presence and it’s paying off as a lead generation channel. Social media (including organic and Socedo) is driving nearly 40% of new visitors to our website and it’s how many of our leads initially discover our brand.
To grow our social media presence, we post new content consistently on Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook, find relevant conversations to join, and make sure to answer questions from our audience in a timely manner. In addition to our corporate account, we’ve also connected our employees’ social media accounts to Oktopost – our social media management platform – so that we are publishing content through multiple channels. We’ve also invested in several tools to help us manage our social media presence and to understand the impact of our social marketing effort on our core marketing KPI – MQLs.
Socedo is a core part of our social media strategy
With Socedo, we’ve set up multiple campaigns – connected to our corporate Twitter handle and the Twitter handles of various employees – targeting prospects based on different keywords. We set up automated workflows to follow our target audience, and send them direct messages to start conversations. In our DMs, we’re either asking people to check out a free trial of our product or to watch a video that explains some benefits of our product.
We’ve assigned our Marketing Operations Specialist to monitor these campaigns’ performance. She makes tweaks to our criteria set and direct messages each week in order to optimize the number of conversions (trial signups, content downloads) from Socedo. Because we’ve set up over a dozen of campaigns, we are able to generate a couple of thousands of leads each months.
We’ve decided that our blog would cover demand generation best practices that help B2B marketers in their day-to-day roles. We have Content Marketing Manager who oversees our blog strategy and the production of blog posts. Here are some of our best tips for how to produce high quality, relevant content when you have a small team (we only have one full-time Content Marketing Manager here):
- Get others within the company to contribute. Our Content Marketing Manager sources ideas and knowledge from all departments within the company. The Marketing and Sales team have an open-door policy and meet each week to discuss our plans. We use these meetings as opportunities to get content ideas.
- Extract Knowledge from subject matter experts. We’ve found that many people within the company have valuable knowledge to share with our audience, but don’t have the time to write an entire article. To make it easy on people, our Content Marketing Manager comes up with an outline for an article, a list of questions to be answered in the article, and sends it to our subject matter experts to complete. This way, the subject matter experts only has to write down what they know, but wouldn’t need to worry about style, structure or grammar. With the answers in hand, our Content Marketing Manager could easily put together the article.
- Optimize or repurpose older blog posts – we’ve realized that MORE content does not equate to more result, especially since we’ve now published over 300 blog posts. Instead, we think about how we can optimize our older blog posts to bring us more traffic and more leads. This could take a few different forms. For example, we can combine and update multiple old, underperforming blog articles into one cohesive long-form article with anchor links, quotes from the original articles/authors, and external and internal links. In addition, we look at highly trafficked articles in Google Analytics, then add more links and better CTAs to these articles.
- Invite others to guest blog. A few months ago, we published our guest blog post guidelines, and since then, we’ve gotten an influx of guest blog pitches. This allows us to publish more posts and provide new insights and perspectives to our audience on our blog without having to devote a ton of time. This also helps boost our traffic because the guest bloggers are usually sharing their post with their audience.
Third Party Publications
Getting published in relevant publications is a top priority for us. This helps us gain credibility, get our name out there and generates referral traffic to our website. As a marketing team, we developed a list of target publications we would like to write for. Every week, our Social Media Manager reads some of these publications and generates 2-3 pitch ideas to send to their editors. Our Content Marketing Manager also provides ideas for pitches but we’ve found that it more efficient for one person to do most of the pitching and coordinate these opportunities. Once we secure an opportunity, we determine the best person to write the article based on their areas of expertise and schedule.
While we’ve had some success on our own, as a startup, we’ve also had some difficulty getting our pitches/articles accepted by some of the tier 1 publications on our list (i.e. Hubspot Marketing Blog, CMO.com).
To address this challenge, we hired an agency focused on Content Marketing – Influence and Co – to help us write byline articles and place them into our target publications. Influence & Co has a great process in place:
- First, we have a call with them to give them an overview of our business, the content themes we want to focus on and the goals we want to achieve with our articles.
- Influence and Co takes this information and turns it into a Content Blueprint that details our content goals, focus areas, target topics and blurbs about articles they recommend writing.
- Once we approve the Content Blueprint, Influence and CO gets to work on the first article. To ensure that each article is impactful, Influence & Co develops 3-5 questions for us to answer. Basically, we’re just sharing our expertise by providing the answers that form the basis for each article. We don’t need to worry about actually writing them.
- Once we have completed the questionnaire, a freelance writer from Influence-and-Co writes the article and sends it to us for approval. Once we make our edits and give our approval, the article is pitched to our target publication and has a very high chance of getting accepted.
- Once the article is published, Influence and Co gives us access to a dashboard to track the performance of the article. Each article is typically shared by hundreds of readers within the first week of publishing.
- On our end, we check Google Analytics to see if the article brings us referral traffic to our website. We also pull a report in Marketo to see if the article generates any marketing qualified leads for us.
Middle of the Funnel (Lead Generation, Lead Nurturing)
At Socedo, lead generation and leads nurturing is a close collaboration between our Content Marketing Manager and our Demand Generation Manager. They work together to come up with campaign concepts, segments, and calls to actions. Then, our Content Marketing takes the lead on content creation, and our Demand Generation Manager takes the lead on creating the right segments, the programs in our Marketing Automation System, the emails and pulls the reports to analyze the performance of these campaigns.
Here are some tips to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns and lead nurturing programs.
- Create separate lead nurturing programs for different buyer personas. Make sure your content speaks to the specific needs of different types of buyers.
- Map your nurture emails to your buyer journey. Initial emails in a nurture stream should be more educational and later stage emails should be more product specific.
- Utilize multiple calls to actions in each email. For example, your primary CTA could be asking people to learn more about a specific topic by downloading a whitepaper. The secondary CTA could be a trial sign-up This way, you can maximize people’s exposure to your more valuable CTA (i.e. trial sign up) without being too promotional.
- Create real-time campaigns based on buying signals from social media. When we talk about real-time marketing, we’re talking about sending leads a specific call to action or offer at the exact moment when it would be most effective, based on an action that a lead takes. Moreover, it’s about tailoring messaging to fit what that potential buyer is interested in right now. Here at Socedo, we use our own Lead Acceleration product to monitor the social media activities of leads in our marketing automation system, and send them contextually email messages as soon as they express interest or intent, based on their social media activity. By tracking the hot topics tweeted by our target audience, and sending these leads relevant emails as soon as they mention these topics, we’ve been able to create many MQLs and several new customers.
- Master the functionalities of your marketing automation system. Your marketing automation system is the core technology that supports your lead nurturing initiatives. Make sure you have an expert on hand or get a consultant to help you. Here at Socedo, we chose Marketo because our Demand Generation Manager was already proficient with the platform.
- Make sure you invest in your database. You need the right data to make your marketing ideas a reality. In the B2B space, having bad or dirty data in your system can create serious issues, i.e. hindering lead scoring efforts, targeted campaigns and personalized emails.
To make sure that we have a clean database, we’ve made sure that we have someone who actively manages this asset (our Demand Generation Manager). He makes sure that:
- Our database is healthy. He keeps track of key database health health metrics like email deliverability rate, growth of opt-in members, unsubscribe rate.
- We have the right kinds of data to support our campaigns. Our Demand Generation manager works closely with data enrichment vendors like Clearbit to add additional fields to our contacts.
- We have the right reports to know how leads are engaging with us through all channels and how they’re moving through the pipeline.
Database maintenance is a not a trivial task. Here, we have a full time marketing operations specialist who supports many of these tasks under the guidance of our Demand Generation Manager.
Events and conferences is a great way for us to get in front of our target audience. Our Demand Generation Manager also acts as the lead on the events we sponsor and handles everything from researching events all the way down to staffing the event.
To maximize ROI from our events, we leverage the conference hashtag to target, engage and nurture our qualified leads. To learn more about how we use conference hashtags to reach event attendees, take a look at this blog post.
Bottom of the Funnel (Sales Acceleration)
Because we’re growing so quickly, our sales team is always hungry to get more leads. One thing we can do to pass more leads to sales is to update our lead scoring model, which is made up of demographic and behavioral components. We ask ourselves these questions: what assumptions have we made about our ideal customers? Are any of the assumptions not holding up? Can we change a component of our lead scoring model so that more leads will hit the MQL qualification bar faster?
For example, we’ve determined that our best-fit customers work at organizations with more than 5 employees, they have a marketing automation or CRM system in place and they have gated content to promote. But there are certain companies with fewer than 5 employees but still have a marketing automation system. If we pass these leads over to sales, they may close at a similar rate as other leads.
Of course, there’s always a trade-off between lead quantity and lead quality. When we do update lead scoring model and increase the quantity of leads we send over to sales, we keep a close eye on lead quality metrics (i.e. contact rate, opportunity rates, close rates) to make sure that lead quality isn’t degrading too much.
Now that we’ve discussed how our team is structured, here are a few tips on what to look for when hiring for these roles.
Content Marketing Manager
- Inbound Marketing Mindset: This person should be proficient in earning audience attention through classic inbound techniques (search, social, email marketing). They need to understand the channels your audience is using, know the nuances and context for each, and know how to leverage your company resources to make an impact across digital channels.
- Business Acumen: Your content marketing manager understands your business and products and the competitive landscape. They need to be able to present the business value of content to your executive team and attribute content marketing effort to business metrics.
- Content Strategy: this person needs to understand how to consistently develop interesting, relevant content in a variety of formats as well as how to leverage different channels to get it in front of your target audience. They need to have a solid understanding of SEO and how to create content that attracts attention.
- Analytics: This person should understand how to measure content marketing efforts through common analytics tools (Google Analytics) and CRO approaches (A/B testing for example). This knowledge enables them to understand what’s working and how to improve.
- Writing and editing skills: This person be a solid writer and be able to edit others’ work.
- Project Management skills: This person will be responsible for producing a lot of content, and keep track of when things need to be done. Look for someone who pays attention to details and can stay organized.
- Humor: Humor is a sure way to attract attention. Make sure this person knows how to entertain your audience once in a while by creating fun, entertaining content that breaks up the day.
Social Media Manager
- Social proof: Does this person already have a huge following on social media? If they do, they probably know how to use content on social personally. Each social network has its own nuances, makes sure that this person understands these nuances and can create content for different contexts. Here at Socedo, when we hired our social media manager – Teena, she already had over 5000 followers on Twitter and had built a significant subscriber base on YouTube through her music videos.
- Conversation skills: Social networks are places for two-way conversations. Make sure that this person is genuinely interested in getting to know your audience and engaging them in conversations.
- A sense of humor: This person is another content marketing person and would need to create fun content. Make sure you hire someone who is fun and creative.
- Detail orientation: This person will be managing your company’s public facing channels. They need to pay close attention to what they’re posting, make sure there’s no grammar errors, broken links, etc. in your content.
- Writing/copy-editing: While this person doesn’t need to be the best writer at the company, he or she needs to be able to write short, snappy, attention-grabbing copy. In a smaller company, this person may also be a significant contributor of content on your blog, so make sure you see how they write.
Demand Generation Manager
If you’re at a smaller organization, this person could also oversee marketing operations. Be sure to look for someone who understand your business, has solid digital marketing experience, is highly analytical and has experience with core marketing systems (marketing automation, CRM) used to generate, distribute and report on leads (we’re lucky we found all these skills in Adam Hutchinson).
- Email marketing: Look for someone who has experience running email campaigns to grow your database organically. This person should understand how to segment lists based on behaviors like past email engagement and website interactions (content downloads, site page visits, etc.). They should also have experience developing lead nurturing workflows for audience segments to convert leads into customers.
- Advertising: Look for someone who has experience in managing the strategy and set up of paid campaigns (PPC, display, retargeting). Ideally, they have experience working with various vendors to expand a brand’s reach and to lower its cost-per-acquisition.
- Marketing Operations: Look for someone who has created scalable practices to ensure best practices in lead generation and database management in their previous role. This person should be proficient in using key marketing systems (marketing automation, CRM) to generate, distribute and report on leads. This person should also be a data geek, capable of creating and maintaining metrics reports on marketing and sales activities, effectiveness and business impact. Lastly, look for someone knows how to diagnose data quality issues, fix them, and maintain data quality within the marketing database.
Whether you’re just starting to build a marketing team or looking to add someone to your existing team, hiring is one of the most critical pieces of building a marketing organization. Keep in mind that while you may be hiring someone for a specific role, great employees will rise above their current roles. Be sure to invest in each individual and staff according to your team members’ strengths and weaknesses.