Four business marketing strategies can boost business-to-business sales conversion rates by up to 25 percentage points, based on results of a survey Altman Vilandrie released this week.
However, only 15 percent of businesses fully take advantage of them.
Even those that do use the strategies sometimes fail to maximize sales conversions because of a lack of coordination and integration.
The four strategies:
- standardizing lead handoffs;
- employing lead scoring;
- creating detailed customer maps; and
- coordinating between sales and marketing departments.
Researchers polled 190 B2B marketing decision makers at U.S. companies with annual revenues of at least US$100 million. They also interviewed B2B marketers and relied on the industry experience of the firm’s own consultants for the study.
Standardizing Lead Handoffs
Standardizing lead handoffs from marketing to sales would increase marketing qualified lead (MQL) conversion rates by 13 to 17 percentage points, the study found. However, only 35 percent of B2B marketer respondents considered their lead handoff practices highly standardized.
A standardized lead handoff has two components, said Kate Rodriguez, a principal at Atman Vilandrie and coauthor of the study.
First, there is a defined point in the customer journey at which marketing hands off the lead to a sales rep, she told the E-Commerce Times. Second, there is a service level agreement that, for example, requires a sales rep to call a newly assigned qualified lead within a specified number of days.
“Often, the lead handoff isn’t standardized because of a lack of clarity around the process,” Rodriguez said. Companies need to establish the process and clearly define the expectations.
“If marketers and sellers all understood who’s accountable to perform a task, the customer experience would improve, and that could lead to improved sales cycles,” said Cindy Zhou, a principal analyst at Constellation Research.
“Standardization creates consistency and accountability,” she told the E-Commerce Times.
Employing Lead Scoring
Lead scoring improves MQL conversion rates by 8 to 10 percentage points, the study found. While 80 percent of B2B marketers use lead scoring, there are huge differences in both discipline and sophistication.
“Basic lead scoring consists of both behavioral data — the actions the buyer is taking with the companies directly — and demographic data, such as company size, industry and revenue,” noted Zhou.
Sophisticated scoring systems, which incorporate more customer actions and advanced modeling techniques, such as predictive analytics and AI, are more effective, Altman Vilandrie’s Rodriguez said.
Many marketing automation providers, such as Marketo, Salesforce and Oracle, have services and education to help customers build out scoring processes, Zhou noted. However, many marketers rarely review a scoring process they have developed.
“Market dynamics and buyer behavior are always changing, and marketers need to be proactive in reviewing their journeys and scores,” Zhou cautioned.
Mapping the Customer Journey
About 70 percent of B2B marketers map customer journeys, but less than 15 percent reevaluate their journey maps frequently. Frequent reevaluation can increase MQL conversion rates by 3 to 5 percentage points.
Companies “should actively monitor their buyer journey performance … during their weekly or monthly reviews to look at lead and sales stage duration,” recommended Zhou. “They can look at adjusting their journeys based on their sales cycles.”
CRM and other software “should make it easier to evaluate the customer journey,” but CRM systems often require integration to other systems such as website data, Rodriguez remarked.
“Marketers need to work with sales to understand journey performance,” Zhou said. However, “most B2B marketers work with their marketing automation solutions, and few have access to the CRM solution for a comprehensive view.”
Getting Sales and Marketing to Play Together
Coordinating sales and marketing efforts after the initial sale can increase the MQL-to-sales conversion rate by 6 to 7 percentage points, the study found, but only 55 percent of B2B companies do this.
“First, understand the key pain points faced by the sales and marketing organizations,” Rodriguez suggested. “Then, implement a solution that holistically addresses those challenges.”
That may include defining roles and responsibilities, aligning incentives, identifying joint measures of success, and investing in the right tools.
Companies “shouldn’t focus on who generated the lead — sales or marketing –” Zhou said, “but on how to close the deal.”