Using B2B Data and Automation For A Better MSP Sales Funnel
Managed IT Services is a tough business. Margins are tight and competition is stiff. As MSPs, we live this truth every day as we look to gain every possible inch of competitive advantage we can. Some of you have probably hired Marketing Agency after Marketing Agency that over-promised and undelivered. Others may have used internal resources to utilize PPC platforms, only to pay $15/ click on traffic that never seems to convert. What I can assure you is that there is a better way and as an IT professional with technological resources, you are in a prime position to capitalize on it.
“The way” is leveraging B2B data sources to create an extremely qualified target audience, then utilize various technologies and platforms to get your message in front of them. Some call it “Marketing Automation”, some call it “Lead Generation.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s a surefire way to get a steady stream of prospects with considerably low capital input. Here are a few ideas on how your MSP can use data to start building out a target audience and generating leads, as we did so successfully.
Using AI Generated Data For Lead Generation
As you may have heard me say before, not all data is created equal. As it relates to this topic, the only one guarantee I can make is that bad data will always yield bad results. Even with a decade of experience in B2B marketing and lead generation, I still had to learn this the hard way. This is why I encourage you to listen closely.
The type of data that you want to source is B2B data that has been generated by AI. The days of purchasing outdated opt-in data or a spreadsheet of business card info that someone collected at a trade show are over. There are a few providers right now that are generating data at an extremely high quality, simply by piecing it together from publicly available info (websites, Linked In, message boards, blogs, etc). This known information gets compiled and then the AI logic steps in to fill in the blanks, validating it for accuracy along the way.
Sourcing AI B2B Data For Lead Generation
There are a few providers that are generating this type of B2B data right now, but our provider of choice was a company by the name of LimeLeads. Their platform is one of the most intuitive in the industry and they offer very competitive pricing. In fact, LimeLeads is currently giving our readers 35% off w/ promo: mspgrowthhacks. To purchase their data, you can either buy credits or sign up for a subscription plan (best value). The easy to use interface allows you to filter data down to your target audience and even preview samples as you go.
All this being said, one of the best parts about their service is that they do live email validation upon export of the data from their dashboard. This means that you can plug this data into an email marketing workflow and almost guarantee little to no hard bounces. Our accidental discovery of this service was one of the best things that happened to our campaign, as it dramatically changed the results of our efforts.
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Filtering Your B2B Data
The way you filter your data definitely has an impact on the results you will yield. One of the benefits of getting the subscription plan, is that you can export in smaller batches and test as you go. To give you a head start, here are some of the filters that we used and some tools that helped us develop them.
- Job Title – We found that targeting top decision makers worked best to get a response, even if they weren’t involved in day to day IT. Often the email would get forwarded down the chain. Here are the title keywords we used: CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, CIO Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer, President, Director, Partner, Founder, Principal, Operations, Office Manager. We also used the following negative keywords: Vice, Service, Marketing, Customer, Assistant, Administrative, Administration.
- Location – This filter will obviously vary based on your service area. We used zip code filtering which I think worked the best. If you do not already have a list of zip codes for your service area, you can easily create one using this zip code by radius tool. Make sure you have the tool toggled to “New Line” if you plan to copy and paste into LimeLeads.
- Industry – You probably already know your preferred industry verticals but you may not know their SIC codes. We recommend compiling a list using this SIC reference site and using it in your filter. You may also want to create an exclusion for SIC Codes: 7371-7379. These are all technology related Business Services and are likely competitors.
- Company Size – Depending on whether you service SMBs or Enterprise companies, you can adjust this field accordingly. Regardless, we recommend setting it to a minimum of 11 employees. A lot of data sources will have a 1-10 employee grouping as their first threshold, so we recommend steering clear.
- Revenue – This goes hand in hand with Company size and the type of companies you want to target. If you are in the SMB market like us, we would recommend staying in the $500k-$500m range.
- Email Deliver-ability – If you are using LimeLeads or another provider that does a live email validation, then this type of filtering is of little concern. For other sources, we would recommend getting data with at least an 80-85% deliver-ability rating. This will help you avoid the SPAM filter and keep your domain off the blacklist.
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Generating Leads with B2B Data
Now you have a highly qualified list of potential prospects to target. Here are few techniques that we used to get their attention. By using a marketing automation platform (our choice is AgileCRM), you can have these different campaigns talk to each other and create workflows to optimize the results. We plan to expand on these techniques in future articles, but for now, here is a list of general techniques you can use in your automation.
- Display & Search Ads – You can use Google Ads and Bing Ads platforms to serve up highly targeted ads specifically to your list. This is done by uploading your list into what they call a “matched audience.” Doing this will yield you far better results than targeting keyword searches as these platforms are typically used for. Since you know everyone that sees your ad is highly qualified, you can also optimize your campaign for impressions (instead of clicks) which can be very cost saving.
- Sponsored Social Posts – Much like the major search networks, Social platforms such as Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will also allow you to create a “Matched Audience” from your own data. This will allow you to sponsor or boost your posts directly to your prospects. Creating highly targeted content and then running it on a CPM bidding strategy will yield very good results.
- Video Ads – Video allows you to transmit information to your target at the highest bandwidth. The combination of audio, image, and text transmitting simultaneously allows your message to soak in only a few seconds. You can use the same “matched audience” from your Google Ads account to launch pre-roll ads on Youtube which are proven to be highly effective.
- Email Drip – This is where you will see the Advertising expenses start to pay dividends. Running an email drip campaign through a platform like Mailchimp or directly from your Automation CRM will initiate the most direct communication with your prospect. Since the prospect has been seeing your display and social ads everywhere, they will now have instant brand recognition which will make them more likely to open your email and reply back.
- SMS & Telemarketing – If you have the resources you could also launch a telemarketing campaign to cold call your prospects. In my experience, the only way to do this efficiently is by using a dialer. You may be more likely to get past the gate keeper if the target recognizes your company, so definitely run this campaign in conjunction with some of the other mentioned above. SMS is also also an option, although most B2B data includes traditional landline phone numbers, so this may not have a high success rate.
- Direct Mail – As with telemarketing, direct mail probably won’t be successful on its own. However, if you create highly targeted content and automate the printing and delivery (as we did with PostalMethods), it can help you reinforce your message and hopefully drive more conversions elsewhere in your workflow.
Regardless of your MSP Business’ size or budget, you can leverage data and marketing automation techniques to generate growth. Considering the costly alternatives, it is certainly worth a try. As marketing agencies of all sizes start to trend toward more intelligent, data-driven techniques, these channels will become far more saturated. This is why investing in B2B data and developing these campaigns now is so important.
If you have had success generating leads by leveraging B2B data, or if you have questions about our process, feel free to comment below.