Lead generation in the digital era can be daunting. The good news is, there are resources that can immediately help you fill your sales pipeline. To help you stay on top of your customers’ needs our ongoing best practices blog series will focus on lead generation, social media strategies, nurturing programs and more.
Generating consistent and predictable sales leads is the lifeblood of B2B organizations. Unfortunately, in our digital era, successfully managing a sales funnel is easier said than done. Tried and true methods, like cold calling and shotgun email marketing techniques, now only produce lackluster results. This leaves many of us feeling as though we have exhausted our time, budgets and resources.
The primary reason for this change is the evolution of the buying process. Digital has forever altered how buyers make purchasing decisions. In fact, they often complete their own research online before reaching out to a Partner, which highlights the importance of being top of mind at every stage of the sales process.
Understanding the Modern Buyer’s Journey
There are three stages of the buyer’s journey. Each stage puts your customers firmly in the driver’s seat of the decision-making process, including:
- Awareness: The buyer realizes they have a problem
- Consideration: The buyer begins to research possible solutions
- Decision: The buyer chooses a product or solution
Harnessing the Forgotten Power of Email Programs
As social media and content play an ever-expanding role in sales and marketing, email programs have fallen by the wayside. It is important to note that email marketing continues to deliver tremendous performance, consistently exceeding other methods. According to a survey conducted by the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric, “Email had a median ROI of 122% — more than four times higher than other marketing formats examined, including social media, direct mail and paid search.” 
Email marketing is unquestionably effective for building awareness and nurturing leads, but there are critical elements to consider:
- Purchased email lists are rarely effective and may hurt your reputation. Instead, build an opt-in list with content marketing and other inbound marketing techniques in order to build brand recognition and customer loyalty.
- Segment your lists to narrow your targeting focus (think verticals, previous email activity such as click-throughs and past purchases).
- Use multi-touch programs to build your message over time.
- Be consistent with your messaging to strengthen your brand.
To help you get started, VMware Partners can easily access multi-touch programs in the Partner Demand Center. These campaigns are ideal for driving awareness and include everything you need, from custom emails and landing pages to gated content.
Building Relationships with Lead Nurturing
Depending where your buyer is in their journey, they may not be ready to buy right now. However, it does not mean that you should concede and move on to the next lead. Take this opportunity to nurture the relationship, differentiate your business, build trust, educate your customers and finally move them closer to a decision.
According to the 2017 Benchmark survey by Demand Gen Report, marketers agree that the best types of lead nurturing programs are email newsletters, white papers and webinars. But, these are not the only tactics that work. Thought leadership articles, research-based content and blog posts are also highly effective. The key for all Partners is to map the right type of program and content to each stage or the buyer’s journey.
VMware knows it takes time to build lead nurturing programs and content from scratch. We offer resources at your fingertips to give you a fast pass to success. Our programs include everything from webinar and workshop planning guides to outbound calling programs – all tools available through the Partner Demand Center.
When buyers reach the decision phase, they’re strategically narrowing down vendors by evaluating specific features and comparing prices. Seeing products in action helps prospects fully grasp the features and overall value of solutions. This is an ideal opportunity to offer testimonials, labs, evaluation checklists, product trials and demos.
VMware supplies the following fast passes to success to help you demonstrate the value of VMware products and move sales forward:
VMware Hand-on Labs (HOLs) demonstrate the value of VMware solutions in real time. This program provides you with the tools you need to encourage prospects to try out VMware solutions.
- Free Trials and Assessments
Free Trial and Assessment forms can be added to your website through VMware Content Syndication. This allows your prospects to download evaluation versions of products and install them in their own environment.
Refining Your Strategy
Once your programs are in place, it is important to continuously evaluate what’s working and refine your strategy based on data. If you’re not focusing on metrics, statistics show that you may be missing valuable leads. According to Demand Gen Report, “The less companies know about their Key Performance Indicators [or metrics], the less likely they are to meet their revenue goals.” To identify where leads are leaking out, it is recommended to regularly examine each stage of the sales funnel. This best practice will go a long way toward boosting your pipeline and improving your marketing and sales practices.
Next Steps for Partners to Boost Sales
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 Email Continues to Deliver Strong ROI and Value for Marketers, https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Email-Continues-Deliver-Strong-ROI-Value-Marketers
 2016 Lead Nurturing Benchmark Study, https://www.demandgenreport.com/resources/reports/2016-lead-nurturing-benchmark-study
 2016 Content Preferences Study, https://www.demandgenreport.com/resources/research/2016-content-preferences-survey-b2b-buyers-value-content-that-offers-data-and-analysis