A wise man once said, “It all boils down to 3 things: People, Processes and IT.” If your processes are not honed and proven, and your IT doesn’t support them flawlessly, then quick growth may actually put your business at risk.”

It may well be that your business makes its numbers for the meantime.. good for you! Maybe you just set the bar too low and you could be doing a lot better, or maybe you’re unable to take it to the next level because of funnel misalignments? In come the business process consultants and purple suits ‘to regurgitate all you will teach them about your company in a nice report‘. So before you do, let’s have a look at Marketing: the beginning of the funnel.

Out- to Inbound
The transition from outbound to inbound marketing is a step that many have yet to make, but you better hurry up because outbound is dying fast! Email blasts to purchased lists, cold calls and outsourced telemarketing are a daily nuisance to the general public. More and better ways to filter and block these interruptions, such as spam filtering and caller ID, are being applied by all victims. From “forcing your product in front of your customer” (at the obvious risk of annoying them) to “earning customer attention through valuable content and making it easy to be found”. The switch can be a hard one to make.

B2B vs B2C
B2C is tried & tested and best practices have been developed from Amazon to Deal Extreme. B2B demand generation on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. A good looking teenager with thousands of Instagram followers may be a great bet to flog a pair of exclusive sneakers, but it’s not going to sell subscriptions to your SAAS solution. You can put more effort into social media, because that’s what you’ve seen in B2C, and end up throwing good money after bad. You may build a new website yet hold on to the thought that your prospects will actually follow the path to your contact form.

Losing track already? Take a step back and question all your presumptions to lay the foundation for scalable future growth. Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups!

Audience Blueprint
In general, a good B2B leads machine is a hybrid form of on- and offline, old- and new economy. Step 1: Blueprint your audience. This goes for online- or “mortar and brick” companies alike. You must have a pretty good idea what your clients looks like, but it may be time to reverse engineer this by checking into your quickest converting prospects and your best performing or least maintenance-heavy clients (70/30 rule). Construct a list of the buying personas.You can also build separate lists of influencers and decision-maker titles that mean business to you.

Side note: Don’t confuse research with acquiring a list. Apart from supporting an industry with questionable morals and ditto quality, the unfortunate people on these lists have been tortured to death by everyone that has bought said list before you. They have been approached with anything from investment in rainforests to a life-time of dental floss. Just don’t buy lists!

You are now ready to (re-)build your prospect database. Use the available standards such as Hoovers (Dun & Bradstreet) and others to filter the prospective companies on the basis of for instance: geography, industry, annual turnover or employee size. Use LinkedIn to find the decision makers you need to engage with. Other ways are Netprospex, RainKing or DiscoverOrg to name a few, or you can outsource this work using freelancer services like Elance.

leadsmachinesUpcoming article in this series: How best to engage with your (refreshed) audience in a way that won’t instantly burn your carefully constructed database.