By Andrés Tapia and Marie-Christine Werkhausen
To make the informed business decisions you need the right data at the right time. This rule applies to every stage in the marketing funnel. Consider the following scenarios:
- A marketer analyzes the cost per sales qualified lead and allocates marketing budget to the most cost-efficient channels.
- A sales representative gets a notification when one of their key accounts visits the pricing page and downloads a case study.
- An account manager is negotiating a contract renewal with a client and reviews the features that the client used the most and the issues that the client had when using their service.
These three examples of basic processes sound very straightforward and simple to implement. Yet, the truth is, that most companies struggle to implement them.
The problem, very often, lies in the selection of the right tools and in the implementation of a proper orchestration between them. This can be very overwhelming especially when we consider that in the last years there have been a dramatic increase in the landscape of B2B growth tools.
Maybe you’ve seen this crazy graphic from chiefmartech.com. It nicely illustrates how crowded the landscape has become.
It seems overwhelming at first, but we’ll do our best to shed some light on the vast universe of the B2B growth stack, starting with the two main “pillars”: the CRM and the marketing automation solutions. Later, we’ll walk through the funnel from prospecting to customer success.
But before I start, I’d like to stress that selecting the right tech stack is a complex process and there’s many criteria to assess: suitability of the core functions, data compliance, pricing, integrations, user interface, languages supported.
This article is no substitute for a proper audit and selection process, but it should provide you with a set of guidelines to support your decision making.
The CRM: the core growth tool
The CRM is the core and most important of all growth tools for several reasons:
- It stores the daily activities of your sales team and key information about customers, deals and leads. Without a CRM, your Sales team will have a hard time organising themselves and will lose track of which stage their deals are at.
- It’s the main source of information about each stage in the customer funnel. The rest of your tools need to properly integrate with it. Whatever channel you use to talk to leads (mailing, forms, webinars, case studies…) all the tools you use for marketing and customer communication should be integrated with the CRM.
- Tracking and reporting will depend on how and what data is stored in the CRM. For example if your UTMs (links used to track marketing campaigns) are not being pushed to the deals you will never know which channel is delivering high quality leads that move your leads further down the funnel.
Normally, we would recommend a CRM on a case-by-case basis, but based on our experience, we would like to talk about two very different options: Pipedrive and Salesforce.
Pipedrive is the lean, quick, cheap and to-the-point solution for small teams that don’t need much customization or reporting. Its main benefit could also be seen as a disadvantage: simplicity. Pipedrive provides the core functions that you need to track your deals along the funnel at a very accessible price (starting at €12.50 per user). But the reporting, user management and customization options are pretty limited compared to Salesforce..
You could get around the reporting issue by extracting data through Pipedrive’s API, but you’ll need someone with programming experience and you’ll have to worry about keeping the codebase up-to-date. So Pipedrive might not be as attractive as it initially seems.
Having said that, Pipedrive might be perfectly fine for small sales teams with basic funnels and no need for custom business objects besides contacts, accounts and deals. Just keep in mind that it might cost you further down the line when you want to migrate to a more mature solution — so this decision again shouldn’t be taken lightly.
At the other end of the CRM spectrum we have Salesforce. Salesforce has become the gold standard for CRM providers, which means it integrates with many other tools out of the box and it’s easier to onboard new hires because many sales people, marketeers and analysts already know how to work with it.
A Salesforce administrator can, without any coding, set up complex funnels, create custom objects, build insightful reports, manage access to different users and install different third party apps from their large marketplace.
The price and setup costs are typically higher than those of Pipedrive or Hubspot but the customizability makes Salesforce our favorite solution for many cases.
In summary, if you think that you might need to customize your funnel beyond what Pipedrive can support in the near future, consider investing more upfront in Salesforce instead of cutting costs at the beginning. You’ll only have to spend way more for a complex migration later on.
The Marketing Automation Solution
Once you’ve picked the right CRM solution and your sales processes and data are covered, the next big pillar of B2B growth is marketing automation.
Again, there’s no single best solution for every case, but, based on our experience, we think that either Hubspot or Active Campaign should cover most of your needs. Both of them offer almost the same functionality with Hubspot being the more expensive of the two. However, Hubspot has set the standard for marketing automation, which means it has better integrations and is easier to use.
Both solutions offer almost everything you need to handle your inbound traffic: pop-ups, form builders that easily integrate with your website, and mailing. Also, if your CMS can’t generate landing pages, then we recommend that you add Unbounce or Instapage to your toolset.
For both tools, the key feature is marketing automation. You can set up rules and actions that are triggered when a lead interacts with your content. For instance, you could automatically start a drip campaign when a lead downloads an ebook. Or you could send a Slack message to your sales team whenever a lead visits your pricing page.
Now that we’ve covered CRMs and marketing automation, let’s take a look at some other tools that can help you with different stages along the funnel.
The first stage is prospecting — the process of generating leads. You can do this through typical sales activities such as phone calls, social selling or offline events and fairs. But you can also run performance or content marketing campaigns online.
The king of the online prospecting space is undoubtedly LinkedIn Sales Navigator. LinkedIn has effectively leveraged their user data to provide a powerful prospecting tool. With Sales Navigator, you can build lead lists based on a wide range of filter criteria such as job titles, location, company size, sector, and years of experience.
Other tools such as Hunter.io or Prospect.io can also help with prospecting. Both have strong databases of prospects based on data that they’ve extracted while crawling the internet. Their email discovery and validation services are especially interesting — you could combine them with a cold mailing tool like lemlist to scale up your cold mailing activities.
Both Hunter.io and Prospect.io have native integrations with Salesforce and Pipedrive and they offer APIs in case that you need to programmatically connect them to other solutions.
Another group of tools that work very well with Hunter.io and Prospect.io are IP deanonymization tools like Leadfeeder or Salesviewer. After you add their pixel to your website, they can show you what companies visited your site by checking the IP address of each visitor and identifying the company behind them.
You could do some very smart campaigns if you combine these tools. For example, you could identify the companies who visit your pricing page, find employee email addresses and job titles with Hunter.io or Prospect.io, then contact the decision makers. Or you could create a LinkedIn ABM campaign to target the company with video spots that outline your value proposition.
We start qualification after a lead shows their interest by filling in a contact form, downloading an ebook or emailing our sales team. At this stage, the goal is to understand the lead’s needs and ensure that your offering can solve their business problem. If the lead doesn’t meet our prerequisites for a qualified lead, we’ll deprioritize it. Which is why this process is called qualification.
Qualification could be seen as an information gathering process. You can gather information by asking the lead directly (though calls, product demos, emails, or questionnaires) or by analyzing the lead’s behavior (events such visiting a pricing page, downloading a case study, opening emails). You can also enrich your information with data from third-party sources (data such as company size, industry, tech stack).
Demodesk is a great tool for the direct approach. It provides a scheduling service so your leads can easily book a call or a product demo without having to play email ping-pong. You can also use the screen sharing feature to do product demos and take notes at the same time. Finally, there are native integrations with Salesforce, Pipedrive and Hubspot so you can log meetings and calls with leads, schedule Demodesk meetings from your CRM and transfer meeting notes.
To track a lead’s behavior, you could use one of the market automation tools that I mentioned previously (Hubspot and Active campaign). Both of them offer “lead scoring” so that you can assign points to your leads based on their interactions with your website and mails.
For enrichment, there are many solutions to choose from with Clearbit and Zoominfo being among the most popular. They connect to your Salesforce account and enriches your lead profiles with information like job titles, email addresses, phone numbers and location.
Negotiation is interwoven with the qualification process. During the negotiation process you’ll need to present pitch decks to potential clients and send them offers that will be discussed and, in many cases, updated several times until both sides reach an agreement.
Well-designed presentations can give you an extra edge, but if you don’t have access to graphic designers, tools like Canva or WeTransfer’s Paste can help. Canva has a very extensive inventory of templates for white-papers, case studies and pitch decks that are easy to use — even for those with limited design experience.
When it comes to sending offers and negotiating contracts, DocuSign is a very solid solution with features such as electronic signatures, version control to see the differences between each version, a Salesforce integration, payment integrations, reminders and notifications and many more.
A whole new set of processes are kicked off once a lead converts to a customer. You’ll need to onboard them, get usage insights to ensure that your product is evolving in the right direction, offer support when customers have questions about your service, manage contract renewals and see if you can upsell or cross-sell further services.
When it comes to customer success solutions, the technology landscape is vast. Indeed, we’d need a whole other article to cover it properly. But it’s still worth mentioning a few of the “standard” solutions that can help with each process.
Once a customer has converted, you’ll want to onboard them with a welcome email campaign. This is easily done with the marketing automation solutions that I mentioned before (Hubspot and Active Campaign). The first time a new user logs into your platform you can offer them a guided walkthrough with feature callouts. To do this, you can implement a solution like Userlane or Walkme. Once their snippet is embedded in your website, you can configure complex walkthroughs without involving a developer.
To get valuable insights about how customers are using your app, you can analyze events such as clicks, page scrolling, video views or form submissions by using Google Analytics together with Google Tag Manager. If you already use Google Analytics to measure your website traffic, you get this functionality for free and you can set it up without any developer resources. You can also use a tool like Hotjar to record and replay the mouse movements of specific users (anonymized). This replay feature can reveal concrete UX issues that might have missed during data analysis.
You can also get direct feedback by setting up user surveys with Typeform or even Google Forms (which is free but has very limited branding options). When your survey is ready, you can again distribute it through Hubspot or Active Campaign. And, assuming you’ve connected your survey tool to your CRM, your sales team can take advantage of the new customer insights because the survey results will show up in the relevant deal and lead profiles. This extra information can be extremely useful when negotiating new terms with the customer.
You might already use a ticketing system like Zendesk or Freshdesk to support your customers. These tools help to capture a customer’s questions and problems, but beyond that, you can use the data from these tools to prioritize issues that your product teams should focus on when updating their roadmap. Again, these tools should be integrated with your CRM so that your sales team knows what issues a customer has encountered.
For renewals, upselling and cross selling, tools like Docusign again come in handy. But it’s even more important to have all your sales and customer information easily accessible through proper CRM integrations. This enables your account managers to understand your customers’ usage patterns and support issues as well as the added value that they get from your solution.
As you can see, your teams need to master plenty of processes to convert a lead into a customer. And for each process there are tools. From prospecting to customer success, it’s important to select the right tool for your business — hopefully we’ve given you a better idea of what’s out there.
Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” solution. You’ll need to look closely at your business requirements, budget, and the resources that you have available to introduce new tools.