B2B lead generation skills

Recently, I sat down with the owner of a manufacturing business in Chicago who was looking to hire his first head of digital marketing, specifically with strong B2B lead generation skills.  We were joined by his former and newly retired Director of Marketing who started his career many years ago on the brand side of marketing, and admittedly felt like a fish out of water when the conversation turned to PPC and CMS. But both were surprisingly knowledgeable about the state of digital marketing, knowledge gained largely while researching and selecting outsourced partners who have been performing the heavy lifting in their search and content.  It also doesn’t hurt that the owner has something of a technical background, so when it comes to things like marketing automation and CRM, he is a pretty quick study.

As a B2B recruiter, it’s a message I’m hearing more from legacy businesses within industries, such as manufacturing, that have deep roots in traditional marketing and advertising: Our buyers are looking for us online, and we need to be there to stay competitive. In fact, a growing a number of those involved in the B2B purchasing decision are now millennials, and of course they grew up with the internet. They shop online, they learn online, they communicate with their friends and family online, and they want to do their business online. To them, a face-to-face sales call is only one small step in a multi-step engagement process requiring a new set of B2B lead generation skills.

By the by way, just to make sure there is no confusion with the term demand generation, I am defining lead generation as a strategy that nurtures leads with the goal of converting them to customers. The key word here is “nurture”,  as opposed to little or no interaction with the company during the marketing and sales process.

The candidate they ultimately hired was someone who I instinctively knew had “the right stuff” to expand their online footprint.

He covered all sides:

Technical. He was very comfortable with the use of marketing automation platforms, and how to leverage them to segment prospects, send triggered emails, analyze campaign results, score leads, and then sync it up with a CRM system to foster better collaboration between marketing and sales. In other words, he is expert in the technical considerations of B2B lead generation skills

Strategic. He was highly accomplished at developing the lead management strategy from A to Z, or what McKinsey & Company describes as the Customer Decision Journey where customers navigate through an ongoing set of touchpoints before, during, and after a purchase.

Collaboration. The candidates’s proven ability to collaborate stood out. I’ve written a lot about the importance of collaboration in early stage digital environments such as this, and it can be the difference between success or failure. In this particular organization, my candidate will truly be the new kid on the block. He’ll be sitting in the executive meeting room with a sales leader, the head of engineering and the head of account management, all of whom have been with this company for many years, and who have thought about digital marketing about as much as they’ve thought about languages of Mycelia during the Dark Ages. My candidate will be part digital marketing subject matter expert and part digital marketing evangelist, a role he had relished with previous employers who, like this business, were shifting dollars out of traditional advertising, trade shows and the like, and towards more digital marketing.

Partner Management.  Since there IS no digital marketing team, at least not yet, certain tasks such as paid search will continue to be left to external partners. Not only has my candidate managed those resources he also spent a couple of years on the agency side, so he is familiar with both sides of the fence. He knows exactly how to manage and budget those partners.

All in all, these kinds of opportunities represent potentially outstanding moves for Manager-level B2B marketers who have the “right stuff”, including B2B lead generation skills, and who are ready to take their careers from second in command to the next level up, and “own it.