Expert Tips for Lead Generation in B2B IT

Lead generation is both a difficult and critical process for marketing teams. Reaching the right potential customers, offering them attractive contents and audio-visual materials, taking them to higher levels of the sales funnel, and assigning them to sales teams once they are “almost” ready to purchase is a challenging task in every industry. This long-term process that requires utmost care is even more difficult when it comes to B2B IT. That is why expert support is crucial in lead generation practices. Şükrü Güdük, Co-Founder and Sales & Business Development Director at Arina Digital, which is a digital marketing agency that focuses on the IT industry, explains the best practices and tips for lead generation.

Certainly, every industry has its own challenges, advantages, difficulties, and opportunities. However, frankly speaking, the IT industry and mostly B2B IT faces even more challenges in many ways. It is not easy to differentiate the brand in terms of products and services, competition is harsh, corporate images sometimes limit creativity, human resource to generate high-quality content is limited. As a result, the expected performance is not achieved in lead generation. But it is possible to overcome these challenges by getting help from a marketing agency that has expertise in digital marketing and deep knowledge of the IT industry and the B2B world. Hence, Arina Digital. In this interview with Şükrü Güdük, Co-Founder and Sales & Business Development Director at Arina Digital, you will find critical tips for lead generation.

Why is B2B IT different from other industries in terms of marketing practices? What are the requirements and challenges specific to this industry?

First of all, the target audience in B2B IT is very specific and limited. For instance, a B2C technology company can promote its latest smartphone to a wide audience, using many different channels. However, a B2B IT company can offer its technology solutions only to those who need or may need it.

Secondly, B2B IT companies have limited channels to reach this target audience. The main platform is LinkedIn, and it is not a channel that users spend as much time as they do on other social media platforms. Therefore, it is not easy to reach a limited and specific target audience within a limited period of time.

Another challenge is the lack of qualified human resource. Certainly, there are undergraduate and graduate marketing programs, but they mostly offer curricula designed for B2C. There is no school or department specific to B2B marketing. This means, B2B marketers can only gain expertise in the field, and this takes time.

Finally, there are some challenges resulting from the nature of the industry. For example, when promoting a smart TV, you can underline many qualities – from sound quality to image resolution and electricity consumption. You can even explain these in concrete terms and with powerful visuals. However, B2B IT mostly talks about abstract concepts. It is not easy to give a concrete image of an abstract product like software. This is why content is very important. In order to be able to generate high-quality and accurate content, marketing teams need to get information from technical teams, because no matter how well a B2B IT marketer knows the product, he or she cannot know the specifications as perfectly as the technical team. Yet technical teams are so busy with their work that they cannot spare time for content generation. Even if they can, their language is mostly dull and too technical as they cannot see the solutions from a marketing perspective.

A content team is needed to take these technical materials and transform them into understandable and appealing content. However, this is not a talent that everyone has. It is vital to know the IT industry well, to have good command of the terminology, to understand the solutions and B2B processes, and to present all of these to potential customers in an appealing way. Marketing teams mostly cannot achieve this. As a result, B2B IT companies cannot generate high-quality content, make a difference in the industry, or explain their products or services well enough.

That is why working with a competent marketing agency makes life a lot easier for B2B IT companies.

What opportunities does digital marketing offer to the IT industry?

In essence, digital marketing is not that different from conventional marketing. You still need to position and differentiate your business and reach potential customers. The only difference is in methodologies. The time people spend in the digital world increased especially after the internet became widespread and smartphones were created. An average person spends about 4 hours in the digital world. When the time for sleep is deducted, we can say that we spend approximately 25 percent of a day on the internet. This is a very high rate. And it offers many opportunities.

For instance, although we do not clearly know its value for marketing yet, augmented reality (AR) that combines physical and digital environments will become more and more prevalent. Metaverse is currently a buzzword, but it is still in its primitive stage, it will become more widespread in time. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and metaverse will complement one another. People will start to spend even more time in the digital world.

In other words, we are at the dawn of a major change, and everything is developing so fast. Therefore, soon, companies that do not invest in digital marketing will not be able to run their businesses.

By using the marketing platforms in the digital world, you can reach your target audience with smaller budgets compared to conventional marketing. Plus, you can go beyond local projects and reach the whole world, there are no boundaries anymore. If you have a high-quality marketing infrastructure, if you generate good content, and if you use digital channels well, success is guaranteed.

Now, let’s talk about lead generation. What are the greatest lead generation challenges in B2B IT?

Throughout my career I took part in more than 100 lead generation campaigns in B2B IT. According to my experience, the greatest problem is this: Companies want to invest in lead generation before investing in their brands. This is not how it works. If anyone will by an IT solution from your company, in the background, there is a customer journey of three months to one year. If your company is not known, if you haven’t positioned it well, there is no way you can get good results from your lead generation campaigns. However, companies usually try to generate leads and include them into the sales funnel without implementing carefully designed brand awareness campaigns and focusing on differentiating the brand.

Another problem is lack of understanding the relation between lead generation and quality content. What do you first need to generate lead? Potential customers. To reach them, you need to have their contact information. How will you get this information? By having them fill in a form. And you need to be able to provide them good content or offering so that they will be filling in the form and give you their contact info. Again, we face the problem of not having content with sufficient quality and quantity. Campaigns have no use if there is not good content.

Another important issue is identifying the target audience well. If you do not have an effective persona, if you have not identified the right audience, if you have not worked on account-based marketing (ABM), if necessary, then your audience will not even see your campaign on digital platforms.

Finally, I think another challenge is that B2B IT companies do not see the process as a whole. Companies mostly focus on finding leads and transferring them to sales teams for conversion. Yet when a lead has downloaded a single document and given contact info in return, it doesn’t mean that it can immediately be transferred to sales. It is vital to implement lead nurturing and forward the potential customer to sales step by step. When you don’t do this, all you have are low-quality leads and after a while the sales team loses confidence in the marketing team.

In your experience, what are the best practices in lead generation?

If I were the marketing director of a B2B IT company, I would first of all invest in my brand. Working solely on generating content or investing all the energy on lead generation is no use. Therefore, you first need to identify the target audience, create personas, work on your messages, and select the right channels.

Another best practice is including creative ideas more in marketing plans. IT companies become more and more similar every day; visual materials, words, video edits, all visual elements and messages they use are almost alike. Yet, we can get inspiration from B2C in terms of content and design. After all, our target audience is not composed of machines or robots, we still address humans. Therefore, we need to create emotional, entertaining materials that are not limited within the boundaries of corporate molds. Similarly, lead generation campaigns should also benefit from creative works.

I think it is also very important to invest in a marketing automation system. Such a system helps you in proceeding methodologically rather than having a disorganized marketing system, and it supports you in handling campaigns more strategically. You can always centrally monitor and manage processes such as lead generation, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and taking leads to higher sections of the sales funnel. At the end of the process, you can perform better and clearer performance evaluations. Such an automation system also lowers lead generation costs.

Why should IT companies work with a business partner for lead generation?

B2B IT companies can certainly build an internal marketing team to manage lead generation. However, this is not a financially efficient method for small and medium-scale enterprises. It does not make sense for SMEs to create a marketing team of 8-12 people for a healthy marketing and lead generation process. So, it is better to work with a business partner, that means a marketing agency, for economic reasons.

Another advantage is benefiting from the best practices all over the world when you work with an agency. For instance, Arina Digital implements marketing campaigns with many different businesses in the USA, Netherlands, Spain, or Turkey. In addition to our know-how and experience, we learn about many new best practices during these projects, and we implement those in other customers as well. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. If you cooperate with a competent agency, you can benefit from its best practices.

Finally, it is better to work with an agency while creating content, design, videos, etc. Artworks need to be created by creative experts. Even if it is a simple social media post, a design by a professional agency will be a lot different from a design made by the marketing team.

How can an IT company maximize the service it receives from a marketing agency?

First of all, the company should be able to work with the agency as a team. There is a common mistake here: Companies say, “If the campaign is a success, it’s mine, and if it fails, it is the agency’s fault.” Marketing processes require cooperation both within internal departments and with stakeholders outside the company.

The competence of the agency is, of course, very important. It is like playing tennis – if you have a weak opponent, your performance goes weaker as well. Therefore, you need to evaluate the competence of the agency team well. A marketing agency should be able to take you to a higher level. However, the company should be well equipped to provide the agency with all the required information, materials, and perspective, too. Only then it can nurture the agency with good content, good briefs, and good marketing plans.

Another critical issue is the support of senior management. The agency should work in synergy not only with marketing teams, but also with the management team. This synergy triggers creativity and ensures better content and marketing materials.

If these fundamental criteria are met and if your agency knows the industry well, it will provide you with sufficient leads.

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