Your leads are armed with more information than ever, and they’re often savvy enough to do the research required to make a decision before they make first contact with your organization. So what does that mean for you when you’re trying to attract and nurture leads and win more customers? And how do you set yourself apart from your competition? Ditch the templated outbound approach to business development and make it more human. Expanding your sales pipeline shouldn’t be an automated process where you buy an email list or cold call organizations who might be a fit. Modern business development is about connecting to other people when and where they’re looking for your offering.
In this way, business development and inbound marketing go hand in hand. Effective inbound marketing powers the lead generation engine by attracting leads and providing your ideal customers with the content and resources they’ll find most helpful. Effective business development helps build strong relationships that will turn those leads into customers.
In our experience, the best way to approach business development is to focus your efforts on building a solid two-way connection with your leads. Do this by first understanding their situation, and then by demonstrating to them how your organization is uniquely qualified to help resolve the issue that prompted them to start researching your offering. To help you improve your business development strategies, we’ve assembled our top four ways to add a human touch and increase your leads and new customers in the process.
1. Create Content Built for Your Buyer Personas
There are two reasons to create high-quality content: first, to attract and engage the right kinds of prospects, and second, to help nurture them in order to win them over and close the deal. To attract and engage prospects, you need to create content that speaks to who they are, where they are in the buyer’s journey, and how your offering will help them achieve their objectives and satisfy their pain points.
Consider these two scenarios. In the first, your website has broad content about how your product works, how it was developed and why your organization is excited about it. The only way for a lead to learn more is by submitting a quote request or via the contact form. In the second, your site content speaks to the benefits of your offering, explaining how it will make customers’ lives easier, and you’ve created a variety of offers that speak to the different goals and responsibilities of each of your target groups.
The content created for the second scenario—specific to the people you are most keen to reach—is your best bet. Personalized, persona-focused content is significantly more likely to:
- Attract your target clients via organic search by increasing the chances that your site will appear more often in search engine results pages for the specific words, phrases and concepts they’re researching
- Provide them with the detailed information they need to solve their unique problems
- Help them understand specifically how your offering will help them achieve their objectives
But don’t just start creating content without a plan. You want to be sure you’re creating the best content for each buyer persona at each stage of their buyer’s journey. As a quick overview, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal groups of customers. When you create your personas, you’ll identify their backgrounds, goals, responsibilities, pain points and the characteristics that make them different from your other target audiences. If you haven’t yet gotten started with personas, download the Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Creating Effective Buyer Personas for more information and a handy template to work through.
Once you’ve defined your personas, you can use this information to craft specific site content, funnel offers and blog posts that align with each persona’s goals and challenges, making the content much more relevant to their unique situations. As you can see in the image below, prospects at different stages have different needs.
For example, a travel agency might have three personas: Families, Couples, and Budget-Conscious Young Professionals. Each of these three groups has very specific needs. By creating relevant content at each decision stage for each persona, you’ll significantly increase the chances that you’ll attract the right kinds of visitors and convert them into leads. Here’s an example of how a travel agency could create content for its distinct personas:
Once you create a bank of high-quality content, in addition to using it to attract and convert leads, your reps can leverage it in the sales process—for example, by sharing it with potential leads in emails, or as a follow-up to a related conversation. Using this kind of helpful content as a touchpoint is a particularly good way to connect with prospects in a meaningful way in contrast with reaching out with a generic message just to try to hit your monthly target. It can also be a great way to share useful information that your prospects might not have previously seen, further reinforcing your position in their minds as best places to help them reach their goals.
2. Foster a Personal Connection to Your Sales Reps
As we stated above, successful business development puts relationships at its core.
One way to make this process a little bit more human from the beginning is to introduce your leads to your team members early on in the prospecting and outreach process. This can be easily accomplished by creating individual sales rep pages for each of your team members.
A dedicated sales rep page will usually have the following information on it:
- Your rep’s biography and credentials
- Contact details
- Social proof, like client testimonials, certifications, or partner badges
- An easy-to-remember (and shareable) URL to make it easy to use in the outreach process
If your sales reps work in specific verticals or target distinct groups, sales rep pages can be created to address various industry or audience requirements. These focused pages should include all the information noted above, as well as additional context about your organization’s expertise in a field or with a group.
For more traditional or outbound lead gen activities, you can design these pages to provide more information on the individual rep, using them as a touch point for prospects who then know who they will be be dealing with. You can also include more context about your organization. For example, consider creating a sales rep page as part of an outreach campaign. If you’re looking to set up consultations with a list of contacts who attended a recent webinar, you can create the page around a very specific core message like “We hope you enjoyed the webinar. Let’s discuss how we will help you organization accomplish its goals. Book a meeting in my calendar for more.”
In addition to including information about the sales rep, this page will also have more information on your company, and further information about how your offering will help leads solve their problems. It can include mini-case studies and examples of organizations you’ve helped with the same issue, and as you can see in the example below, can include a direct link for prospects to book a meeting in your reps calendar, an offer tailored to their industry, or a piece of content that follows up on an asset they’ve previously downloaded.
With a sales rep page in place, you’ll be able to give prospects a clear introduction to the specific person they’ll be dealing with, the important top level information they need to make a decision, and demonstrate that your organization is available to help meet their goals.
3. Put Prospects at the Forefront with Marketing and Sales Alignment
For your leads to feel that they’re a priority, your organization must give them a consistent (and consistently personal) experience. If your marketing team (responsible for bringing in leads) and sales team (responsible for closing leads) are at odds, your prospects will likely feel this throughout the process, possibly leading to a reduced close rate and even more frustration between teams. For your initiatives to be successful, and to reduce friction in the sales process, the closer the teams are, the better. Often, when sales and marketing are two separate teams, it results in the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing and prospects not getting what they need—or, in the most extreme cases, feeling caught in your internal tug of war—in the process.
To ensure a consistent experience and maximize the likelihood of conversions and results, ensure that marketing and sales are aligned in the following areas:
Identifying the Right Leads: To engage leads on a more personal level, it’s important to demonstrate an understanding of what’s caused them to reach out to your organization in the first place, and not simply promote your offering. When your sales and marketing team is aligned and agrees on what makes a good lead, it can help to ensure the assets, nurturing sequences and early outreach are customized to demonstrate how your solution helps solve issues instead of sharing your organization’s services more generally. By identifying whose responsibility it is to keep contacts’ information up to date, create a schedule for how and when you’ll check in with content tailored to the lead’s activity, their lifecycle stage, and how long it’s been since the last time you reached out, your teams can avoid making leads feel as though they’re stuck in an automated process without any human touch points.
Engaging with Prospects: Make sure leads feel nurtured through the process by current team members—rather than automation. Marketing and sales will also need to determine how to make the transition process from one team to the other simple for leads so that there’s no obvious handover between one team member and the next. To facilitate this, consider setting up marketing automation sequences to come from the rep who will most likely be dealing with that prospect. You can even include a link to the reps’ page to further introduce them to your prospects. By surfacing your team early in the process, instead of framing up coming as coming from your organization more generally, the lead will already be familiar with the rep’s name when they reach out later. You’ll find more on this in the B2B Marketer’s Guide to Qualifying Inbound Leads.
Work together to decide how and when to enroll leads in nurturing sequences. If sales reps note that certain personas benefit from being engaged with weekly touch points, and others convert better with more carefully timed offers, design your campaigns to speak to your leads when it’s best for them.
Content Creation: As noted earlier on, the content you create should be based on real experience from leads or an informed judgement about what information your prospects need to make a decision. When your sales teams find that a certain piece of content helps them close a deal, create similar assets. If there’s a common issue that your prospects are presenting to your sales team, create a piece of content about it. This can go directly on your site, into sales or marketing nurturing sequences, and can even be used in direct correspondence between the sales reps and prospects.
By showing your leads that your organization is paying attention to their pain points, you’ll find the sales process much smoother. Plus, leads will appreciate having easy access to the information they’ve been searching for and they’ll see that you’re trying to listen and providing the information they need.
4. Get Personal at Scale
Technology doesn’t have to make the sales process less personal. In fact, HubSpot has made a few fantastic tools that help ensure sales reps are more easily able to connect with prospects and build positive relationships early on. As part of HubSpot’s Sales Pro package, you have access to Messages and Meetings, as well as a wealth of information that will without a doubt help you stack the deck in your favour during initial interactions with potential customers.
These tools help sales reps provide much needed personal interactions more organically throughout the sales process. By creating templates, embedding a calendar where leads can book their own meetings, and providing a chat option on the site, it’s significantly easier to scale your personalization efforts. Combined, these tools can reduce the amount of manual tasks that sales reps often do each day, including setting reminders to book meetings or follow up on calls, or dig through their inboxes to copy and paste common emails.
Email Tracking: HubSpot’s email tracking function is like magic. It alerts you via desktop notifications the second an email is opened making it possible for reach out to a lead precisely when you know you’re on their mind. You’ll also be notified when a lead clicks a link or downloads a file included in the email, and when a lead revisits your site. Again, knowing when a lead is opening an email or visiting your site pages helps inform the direction to take when crafting personalized (read: not boilerplate) replies. When you can reach out to a customer and ask how they’re getting along with the document you sent, or you know they’ve opened your email about pricing 27 times, and that they’re currently looking at your bio in the About Us section, it will become clear to them that you’ve done your homework and they aren’t just another number to you.
HubSpot will give you a ton of information about your prospects, providing ample opportunities to really personalize your replies. For instance, you’ll be able to see how often they engage with a certain page or piece of content, which gives you an in to talk about what it is they’re interested in, and where they might be stuck in the decision making process.
Messages: Messages is a recent addition to HubSpot, and effectively functions like a chat. We’re mentioning it here in a post about personalized business development for this particular reason: Messages makes it possible to customize the rep a visitor sees on a lead by lead or account by account basis. Depending on which team member is or will be their main point of contact, your lead will see their face and contact details, making it clear they’re dealing with a real person right from the beginning.
Meetings: If you find the inevitable back and forth “when works for you” when you’re trying to set up a meeting with a prospect painful, you’re going to love how much Meetings simplifies this process. By providing your prospects with a direct link to your calendar, they can choose the duration and time of a meeting with you, adding it to both your calendars in the process. The link is personalized to your calendar, letting you block out certain times and updating the available appointments as your available fills up.
In recent updates, HubSpot has included the functionality to embed your calendar, so you can include on throughout your site—perhaps on your dedicated sales rep page—and allow prospects to book meetings directly, without having to be sent your personalized link first.
Take a Personal Approach to Business Development and Reap the Rewards
Everyone is busy, and no one wants to deal with robots or work too hard to get the information they need. By providing your prospects with information that’s relevant to them, showing them who you are without them having to get too far into the process, and by reaching out when they’re ready, you’ll greatly increase the leads you attract to your site and the number you close into customers.
To learn more about how to use a human approach to business development, check out the B2B Marketer’s Guide to Qualifying Inbound Leads. You’ll get more details on how to use a prospect fit matrix to ensure a lead is a good fit for your company, why it’s important to conduct research before contacting a lead, how to craft an effective introductory email, and more.