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If you’re in a B2B sales or business development role and you’ve set goals for 2017, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that one of those goals is to generate more leads.

Maybe you’ve been doing the cold calling thing, or perhaps you’re attending some trade shows and doing some LinkedIn prospecting. You’ve gotten mixed results, and you’re pretty sure you’re leaving some good leads on the table but you’re not sure how to get them.

On top of that, you know there are only so many “hot” leads you can juggle at once – and once you close one, you’re wondering where the next one is going to come from. If there was just a way to get more consistent at-bats, you’d have no problem hitting your sales goals.

The good news is that while sales has become more challenging over the past several years, there is a path to generating more leads, having better conversations with those leads and closing more deals through inbound marketing – an approach that attracts customers to you through valuable and helpful content and nurturing.

Below are eight ways to start getting more and better B2B leads with inbound marketing in 2017.

1. Refresh your strategy

While you might be tempted to skip over this or assume that your current strategy is good enough, I can’t stress the importance of this step enough. Virtually all small businesses we start working with are in need of a real strategy. And remember, a strategy is not just a list of tactics. It needs to be a documented plan that starts with your business objectives and guides your marketing operation toward achieving these goals.

If you’re only using outbound sales tactics and you haven’t considered making inbound marketing part of your strategy, there are a lot of good reasons to consider it. Here are just a few:

  • Companies that automate lead management see a 10% or greater increase in revenue in 6-9 months.   [Source: Gartner Research]
  • Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads.   [Source: DemandGen Report]
  • At any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying. 56% are not ready, 40% are poised to begin. [Source: Vorsight]
  • 22% of B2B organizations touch leads with lead nurturing on a weekly basis.   [Source: MarketingSherpa]
  • 95% of buyers chose a solution provider that “Provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.”  [Source: DemandGen Report]
  • 57% of the buyer’s journey is completed before the buyer talks to sales.   [Source: Corporate Executive Board]

To build an effective inbound marketing strategy, you’ll need to consider how your website, content and promotional tactics work together to attract the right people to your business.

2. Revisit your target market

While you’re refreshing your strategy, it’s critical to carefully consider your target market. Have you taken the time to create buyer personas that reflect a thorough understanding of your best clients? If not, you risk marketing your business to the wrong people – or worse yet, marketing the wrong things to the right people.

Whether you’re working on scripting or web copy, guesswork will not cut it. Make it a point to do the research and gather enough data on your market so that your targeting and messaging is laser-focused.

3. Audit your website

Don’t assume that your website is fine just because nobody has told you otherwise. You probably understand that we are in an age when the competition for the shrinking attention span is as fierce as ever; if your website isn’t making an instant and emotional connection with your audience, you can’t expect it to generate leads for you.

Along with the homepage, pay special attention to pages that are supposed to convert, such as service pages or free consultation landing pages. Do they grab attention and convey a compelling message at first glance? Are they designed with your audience in mind?

Now look at your analytics; are these pages working to convert visitors? Or are visitors seeing them and then leaving? Which pages really need to perform but aren’t working? Use analytics to remove assumptions about your website, and make improvements as needed.

4. Create content that actually delivers value

In 2017, you can’t simply create content for content’s sake and hope to compete. With literally millions of blog posts being published and shared every day, content now must stand out and provide enough education, emotion, information or some combination thereof to compel your visitors to come back and consider giving you their business.

Yes, it’s a time-consuming task, but if you create your content strategically, you can avoid wasted time. Assuming you’ve created your buyer personas and have an understanding their buying process, you can create targeted content for each stage of their journey toward conversion: awareness, consideration and decision.

Make sure this content is both helpful to them at each stage of the decision-making process, and search optimized (using keywords and natural language they actually use) so that they can find it in the first place.

5. Put nurturing workflows to use

As shown in the statistic above, most leads are not ready to buy right away. You’ve probably noticed this yourself. The trick to closing those leads is not more phone calls or sales emails. Those things are annoying for everybody and they’re ultimately a waste of everyone’s time. (Have you ever been badgered into a sale by incessant phone calls? Me neither.)

Instead, you can stay on the radar with these leads by designing a personalized lead nurturing strategy that matches their preferences and provides value by helping to answer their questions. This way, when the lead is ready to buy, you’ll hopefully not only be top of mind – you’ll already be seen as a helpful resource.

Note: lead nurturing emails are not mass sales emails sent to purchased contacts; they contextual, personalized emails that deliver value to people who have given you permission to email them.

6. Be helpful, not pushy

It doesn’t matter how many great leads you start generating if you’re not converting them into customers. If your close rate is low, consider this: are you focused on closing the deal, or helping the prospect?

Prospects can smell desperation (aka commission breath), and a pushy approach will likely turn them away ­– especially if they were attracted by your helpful inbound content to begin with.

By focusing instead on being helpful, you can differentiate yourself from the other pushy salespeople and begin to establish a relationship built on trust.

7. Leverage your data

If you’re executing an inbound marketing campaign, you need to do more than just collect data; you need to put it to use.

Set goals, make hypotheses and run experiments. Analyze the results and then run them again. Pledge to stop making decisions based on hunches, subjective preferences or how things were done in the past.

Instead, base them on evidence that tells you whether something will help you generate more leads or not. And don’t be afraid of failure; “failed” campaigns provide valuable data that you can use to make more informed decisions in the future.

8. Surround yourself with people who can help you

Take stock of the people you have helping you generate leads. If you are going to move forward with inbound marketing, do your people have a track record for successfully strategizing, building and executing inbound marketing campaigns?  Are they strong writers, creative planners, web optimizers and data analyzers?

Getting started

Keep in mind that inbound marketing takes time to ramp up and that you won’t see ROI immediately. A study by HubSpot reports that 83% of respondents using inbound marketing saw a measurable increase in lead generation within seven months, and 65% reported seeing a measurable increase after only four months. On top of that, inbound marketing performance gets significantly better over time.

You know that there are more leads out there, and now you have a plan to start landing them. The first step is to fully commit to seeing this through. Talk to people who have done this and get their advice. Break the project up into tasks, set goals and hold yourself accountable. Get the ball rolling now and make the 2017 the year you left your sales goals in the dust.

Ready to launch your first inbound campaign? Download our free checklist for a step-by-step process to get started!